Marketing Your Brand to Chinese Consumers

So you’re interested in selling in China? Great! There are plenty of opportunities for companies looking to expand into the Chinese market, according to speakersat Alibaba’s Gateway ‘17 event this week.

But it’s not as easy as just listing some products and arranging shipments to China. You actually have to learn how to market to Chinese consumers.

Small Business Trends attended the inaugural Gateway’17 event June 20 and 21 at Cobo Center in Detroit. Here’s a report from the conference with tips for marketing products in China according to Gateway ‘17’s speakers and experts.

Tips for Marketing in China

Tell Your Brand Story

“Chinese consumers want to hear your brand story,” said Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group in a presentation Wednesday.

That means they want to buy from brands they feel connected to. Especially if you’re importing products, you have to build some kind of trust by sharing information about your brand, both in your store and through other methods.

So don’t simply put your products out there and expect them to sell themselves. You need to provide great products and a great brand in order for Chinese consumers to trust you enough to buy.

Decorate Your Store

If you’re selling products on Tmall, which is a good strategy since it’s the most popular marketplace among Chinese consumers, then you have a lot of options for sharing more information about your products and your brand.

Within Tmall and other marketplaces, you can customize your store completely. Add your own branding elements, product updates and other content. This can help your storefront stand out and also keep customers coming back for more

Update Your Feed

One of the most popular features on Tmall is the news feed, which you can use to “decorate” your store. This is similar to what you might be used to on social media sites like Facebook. You can share new products and company updates regularly.

According to Chande, young people on Tmall log in and look at news feeds from their favorite stores up to seven times a day. So making those updates interesting and appealing to Chinese shoppers could potentially spur a lot of sales.

Utilize Live Streaming

Live streaming is another marketing tool available on Tmall. And it can be a powerful way to build up some brand trust by showing the actual people behind your brand or the product in action. You can share a company event, new product release or even tutorials related to your offering.

Take Advantage of Shopping Holidays

In China, there are shopping holidays just like there are in the U.S. But the actual holidays are different. So don’t just discount your products on Cyber Monday and expect tons of sales. Do some research on the popular holidays in China and the promotions available on platforms like Tmall.

For example, November 11 is known as “Singles Day” in China (because of all the 1’s in 11/11). An answer to Valentine’s Day, Singles Day is all about buying yourself gifts or buying small items for friends. It’s a major opportunity for any business that sells in China.

Try Bundling or Unique Discounts

Like customers anywhere, Chinese customers love a great deal. So discounts and promotions can be a great way to get some attention for your products.

Sam Wolf, founder of LuckyVitamin, a brand that has found success selling on Tmall said of the company’s customers in China, “They love getting a good bargain. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re just looking for rock bottom prices. But they want to feel like they’re getting a good deal when they buy something.”

So it’s not just about cutting prices. But if you can offer a unique promotion or create some bulk discounts so customers can see more value in their purchases, it could be worthwhile

Do Your Research

It’s also important, no matter what actual marketing methods you use, to do research about your customers and market beforehand. There are plenty of cultural and logistical differences that come with selling in China. So you need to do research and work with partners who can help you understand the landscape.

Overall, you need to have patience and make sure to do your due diligence instead of jumping right in. Marketing and selling in China isn’t something that just anyone can do. You need to be really dedicated to it in order to succeed.

Michael Zakkour, Vice President of China/APAC and global eCommerce practices for Tompkins International said in a discussion at the Gateway’17 event, “In China, everything is possible. But nothing is easy.”

Offer Personalized Service

Your customer service is also part of your marketing in China. Chinese consumers expect fast shipping and answers to all of their questions, according to Wolf. So you need to consider your shipping time and customer service availability to be part of your marketing efforts and make it a priority.

Create Virtual Shopping Experiences

Tmall also offers opportunities for sellers to take advantage of new technology like virtual reality and augmented reality in order to create unique experiences for customers.

For example, if you have a unique retail location and also sell online, you could offer a virtual shopping experience that lets customers feel like they’re actually walking around your store when they’re shopping online. Or you could use augmented reality to help customers make buying decisions, like trying on virtual makeup or arranging virtual furniture in a photo of your living room.

Keep Up With New Technology

And that’s just the beginning of the possibilities that technology offers to businesses selling in China. Tmall and other marketplaces are constantly working to update their offerings. So you need to keep up with those trends and adapt with them if you’re going to stay relevant with customers in China.

Know More About Some Cold Email Secrets Revealed

Email is perhaps the only relic of old-school internet marketing that still has legs.

The numbers don’t lie: billions of people still opt-in to mailing lists as businesses rake in approximately $44 for every $1 spent on email marketing. For many, especially those who’ve never seen a dime from email marketing, these stats seem baffling.

While it’s natural to associate email marketing with spammers and scammers, there are still ample opportunities to prospect and engage clients via email.

If you know how to make your cold messages stand out from the crowd.

The email marketing sphere has changed as much as it’s stayed the same: while emails may be archaic in nature, modern tools and strategies for email marketing have emerged to keep recipients hungry for more. This rings especially true in an era where our inboxes are quite literally in our pockets. Indeed, getting a response is harder than ever, which is why so many experts assert that nowadays, cold pitches are worthless. But reaching out to people cold does still work — if you do it right.

Cold Email Tips

Making your emails stand out requires some subtle changes rather than a single “silver bullet” approach. Regardless of what your marketing or sales message might be, the following six strategies to sprucing up your emails are fair game if you want to see more inbox engagement.

Know Where It’s Going

One of the best tactics for ensuring that your emails catch the attention of your cold contacts is to verify that it actually makes to their inbox.

Considering the fact that roughly 205 billion emails are sent every day it is not at all uncommon for people to have multiple email addresses. They might have a work email, a personal inbox, and one that is dedicated purely to junk they have no intention of reading; you don’t want to be sending your important messages to your prospect’s junk address.

Moreover, since folks typically have more than one digital address, they might try to obscure their most important ones from online listings like Facebook and other platforms to help keep down on the number of emails received here.

This means that tools like Norbert are indispensable. Through this software, users simply enter their desired contact’s name and digital domain and Norbert will vet out he correct corporate email address. Users can also send customized emails directly from the platform, making outreach all the more quick and simple.

Figure Out Your Font

Again, sometimes the most important elements of your emails are the most easy to overlook.

Most of us probably don’t think twice about fonts when it comes to marketing; however, therein lies the problem. We have grown so accustomed to default fonts (Calibiri for Outlook and Arial for Gmail, for example) that anything out of the ordinary has the potential to catch the eyes of your recipients.

While switching up your font is a solid idea, bear in mind that not all fonts are created equal in regard to readability. Likewise, keep the following in the back of your mind:

  • Traditional copywriters favor serif fonts: the idea that you “must” use a sans-serif font is overblown
  • Size matters: in pursuit of producing copy that’s out of the ordinary, don’t sacrifice readability by making your text microscopic or needlessly large
  • “Off-the-wall” fonts such as Comic Sans and Papyrus are obviously off limits as they’ll crush any sense of professionalism your messages once had

There’s no need to lose sleep over your email font: simply don’t be afraid to try something different.

Keep Track of Your Progress

Your emails don’t mean much at all if nobody’s actually opening them.

Thankfully, tools have emerged which provide “read receipts” for your emails, essentially allowing you to understand whether or not your recipients are engaging with your content.

YesWare, for instance, is a powerful email platform that touts robust tracking systems to help users understand the effectiveness of their digital communications by supplying email engagement information around sent emails, along with a variety of other prosperous features.

If you’re unsure whether or not your messages are even making it to the inboxes of your recipients or want to understand what’s causing your prospects to drop, such tools are a must-have.

Encourage Your Opt-In

Having a list of opt-ins is incredibly valuable for marketing purposes and ensuring that your company keeps in touch with its audience.

Yet you can’t build your list until you actually ask your prospects to opt-in.

From education and tidbits of wisdom to company updates, regular engagement doesn’t have to be rocket science. Consider that perhaps the reason why your email efforts have so far stagnated is because of a lack of consistency. Producing a newsletter holds you accountable for content creation and keeps your audience on their toes, ultimately a win-win situation in your quest for more consistent marketing.

Always Follow Up

Here’s the thing: Just about everyone these days has brimming inboxes; remember how many emails are sent per day? Because of that, it is not at all uncommon for communications that would actually interest someone to fall through the cracks, never to be seen again.

For this reason, it is vital that you follow up your initial email with subsequent messages to ensure you are getting your prospect’s attention.

This is why using services like Mailshake, which was designed for cold emailing, is so beneficial for this type of activity.

Through this platform, users can send cold emails and schedule follow up communications at custom intervals to help verify that the first message doesn’t go unnoticed. Additionally, this tool provides its users with campaign calendars for monitoring when emails will be sent so that you always know where you are in the chain.

This type of software will help to make sure you are maximizing the number of replies you receive from your outreach efforts.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Chances are you do have the chops to write emails that get a reaction out of your readers: again, there is no “right” way to craft your messages.

But even if the hard and fast “rules” of email marketing don’t apply across all industries and messages vary from company to company, you should be careful with your words.

How so? For starters, keep the following in mind as you craft your messages:

  • Generally speaking, the shorter your emails, the better: your users are likely pressed for time and don’t want to scroll through an endless wall of text (especially via mobile)
  • Avoid clichés and platitudes: getting the point rather than relying on vague language or wordy phrasing will also cut down on the length of your emails
  • Include some sort of call to action: make it crystal clear what you want your recipients do and spell it out for them (whether that means clicking a link, replying or simply touching base on your site)

Think about the cold emails that you receive. Are you more likely to respond to someone who’s all over the place or succinct? Would you rather read three sentences or three paragraphs? With these answers in mind, you can craft messages relevant to your audience that you feel they would realistically respond to themselves.

Don’t Let Your Emails Fall to the Wayside

In short, improving your email strategy often involves small tweaks rather than a massive overhaul.

If you find yourself struggling for responses or clicks, consider any of the aforementioned tools and strategies as a solid starting point. Although these details may seem subtle, they’ll ultimately serve to set you apart from competitors and better connect your messages with your prospects.

Learn Business By Oreo

Mondelez International (NASDAQ:MDLZ), the company behind Oreo and other popular snacks, sold under the Nabisco brand, is branching out into healthy food.

The company’s new brand is called Vea. Products sold under the brand include snacks like crackers and bars that include natural and healthy ingredients like quinoa and sweet potatoes. The products also include no artificial or genetically modified ingredients. And the company is mainly marketing the new line of products to millennials.

Behind the Vea Brand Launch

Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez International explained to Business Insider that the desire for healthy food options is the single biggest trend the company is seeing in markets across the world. And though this doesn’t mean people aren’t indulging in other items like Oreos now and then, it would be a mistake for the company to ignore the trend altogether.

Small businesses, whether in the food industry or other niches, can learn something from this willingness to adapt to trends. You don’t necessarily have to jump on every new fad. But there are some major trends in certain industries that become hard to ignore, like healthy options in the food industry.

Large and small businesses ignoring these major trends can simply find themselves left behind if they refuse to adapt.For example, ecommerce businesses can easily develop an app to take advantage of the mobile trend. Or a small clothing brand can look for ways to use organic materials and move to fair trade suppliers.

Adapt by launching a new product line or modifying the materials in existing products. Or just switch up your marketing messages to better appeal to people based on their changing preferences.

Create an Effective Marketing Plan

Most small business owners know the importance of a business plan, which outlines your company’s course for success. One crucial element of that plan is your marketing strategy.

Because this strategy is buried in the larger business plan, many small business owners may not give marketing the time, research and attention it deserves, assuming that they know their customer base and how to reach them. But an in-depth and detailed approach to laying out your marketing strategy can reveal opportunities from a new audience or potential product line, pitfalls in pricing, competition reaction, and potential reach.

At its most basic, a marketing plan describes who your customers are, where they get information and how you are going to reach them. Robert J. Thomas, a marketing professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, said the development of a marketing plan requires that you complete four specific tasks:

2. Identify your target customers. There are numerous potential customers in most markets, but to succeed faster and better, a small business must study the market and determine the characteristics of its best target customers. The target customer should be described in detail. Create an avatar, or fictional person, who has all of your target-customer attributes, and examine what that person would say, do, feel and think in the course of a day.

3. Identify competitors that would also want your target customers. No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s dollar. Small businesses seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth, or determine competition that may be outside their industry but just as capable of luring the customer away. Preparing to know who that is, what their core competitive advantage is and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) will help you figure out strategies to combat such losses.

4. Write down your brand-positioning statement for your target customers. Ultimately, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers will be your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write down a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are single-minded and focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.

Now that you know the elements of the plan, you need to figure out how you are going to reach that target customer. Aside from traditional print and broadcast media, here are three tech-driven marketing channels that many of today’s business owners utilize.

Social media has become an essential part of businesses’ marketing plans because every type of customer is on some type of platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other networks. Small business owners can feel overwhelmed at the possibilities but should focus on the ones that can benefit them the most.

Brett Farmiloe, founder of internet marketing company Markitors, advised companies that are just getting started in social media to get to know their customers and what platforms they are using.

“Figure out where your customers are spending their time, and set up shop on those platforms,” Farmiloe told Business News Daily. “Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms. While all three steps are key, the biggest one is really determining if your customers are on these platforms.”

Though email marketing may not be a new concept like social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for many small business owners. Companies can implement email-marketing techniques in a number of ways, including using newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails. Companies such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy for companies to manage their email campaigns.

Farmiloe noted that companies can set their email marketing efforts apart by segmenting their markets.

“Not all subscribers want to receive the same blast,” Farmiloe said. “Smart email marketers take the time to segment subscribers at the outset, and then continue to segment based on subscriber activity. Through segmentation, companies reduce the amount of unsubscribes, increase open rates and, most importantly, increase the amount of actions taken from an email send.”

Best Key Customer Service Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Customer service is the backbone of a successful business. It could be the difference between good reviews and repeat customers, and word getting around about negative customer experiences and people avoiding your business altogether.

Given that customer service is so important, it is valuable to know some of the most common customer service mistakes. Customer service experts lent their expertise to Business News Daily and shared how to avoid them.

Just because it can be automated does not meant it should be, and it also does not mean the automation will automatically translate into cost savings.

Don’t automate just because you can. Avoid erasing all personalization and direct contact with the customer. When possible, provide a variety of different communication modes, as some customers prefer online chat while others want to talk to a person over the phone.

“Give them that option. Don’t force customers to use frustrating phone trees,” said Dana Brownlee, founder of consulting firm Professionalism Matters.

Assuming you know what the customer wants, instead of listening to the customer, is a big mistake.

“Teach listening skills throughout the organization, especially to (customer service representatives),” said Brownlee. “Develop processes that ‘force’ CSRs to really listen to customers – get rid of CSR scripts.”

Instead of thinking about how to delight customers on the front end and avoid getting the calls, many companies fall into the reactive approach of being satisfied with somewhat mediocre products or service and thinking of customer service as something that happens on the back end when there are complaints or problems. Take time to conduct process analysis, continuous process improvement and root cause analysis to truly improve your product service.

“Require every employee to take (five) customer service calls a month to maintain connection to the customer. Incorporate customer service goals into every employee’s compensation/bonus structure,” Brownlee said.

It’s a shame that very often the staff members who interact with customers the most are paid and valued the least. To avoid this mistake, Brownlee said, “Hire better staff, pay them more, and reward them for providing great service.”

According to Robert C. Johnson, CEO of TeamSupport, customers want accurate answers or quick, efficient and respectful solutions, and getting that to the customer is the most important thing, even if the answer or solution is not ideal.

“Make sure the employees (who interact) with customers have access to the right information and are listening to their concerns,” Johnson said. “Ensure communication is realistic – it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver on that promise than the other way around.”

Customer service is proving to be a vital part of a successful business. But where does it start? Employees may not know where to turn for advice on customer service, or how to get the right information.

“A culture of exceptional customer service must start at the top. It can’t be just a slide in a presentation or a cliche saying that employees are expected to follow,” Johnson said. The CEO needs to set the tone, invest in the right team members and technology, and lead by actions as well as words.

A survey conducted by Professionalism Matters also found that scripts are not the way to deal with customer service complaints. Customer service representatives need to be trained to work to resolve a customer’s specific situation, as opposed to the “if they say this, you say that” approach.

No one is perfect. Whether due to a lack of focus, understanding, guidance or diligence, mistakes will happen.

“Sometimes we move too fast, and sometimes things just happen. At the end of the day, it’s how you recover from these mistakes that’s important,” Johnson said. “Good companies own both the good and the bad things that happen.”

The key is knowing how to rectify the situation once it has happened and making sure that the customer still receives the best customer service, despite some bumps along the way to a resolution.

Johnson suggested reaching out to the customer and owning up to the problem with empathetic and sincere communication. Formulate a response strategy, such as a timeline for communication, and execute it quickly.

It’s also critical for customer service representatives to apologize on behalf of the company immediately if the company dropped the ball in any way, Brownlee said in the Professionalism Matters survey.

“There’s nothing wrong with simply expressing regret that the customer is experiencing anguish, even if they haven’t determined yet if the company was at fault,” Brownlee said.

Once the situation has been rectified, take your own internal action independent of the customer, said Johnson.

“Sit down with your team to understand all the details, including what specifically happened, why it happened, and the actions that can be taken to avoid similar problems in the future,” he said.

Tips To Take Your Business to the Next Level

Marketing your small business, whether online or off, is a time intensive process. As your business grows, managing lead capture, nurturing, converting and relationship management become too big to handle manually, which is why small business owners turn to marketing automation software to manage the load.

In general, automation brings many benefits to your small business including:

  • Speed;
  • Lower costs; and
  • Time savings.

However, because the promotion, selling, and relationship management processes involve so many steps, many of which are repeated for each customer, marketing is particularly suited to automation. And that’s where marketing automation software comes in.

Marketing Automation Software

Happily, there are many marketing automation software options for small businesses. These solutions can handle a few, or all types, of automated marketing techniques. In other words, they include various automation features such as:

  • Forms and landing pages,
  • Automated email campaigns,
  • Trigger emails based on set or custom rules,
  • Built-in eCommerce functionality or integration with eCommerce platforms;
  • Lead scoring,
  • Built-in CRM or CRM integration,
  • Smarter segmentation and
  • Website behavior tracking.

Note: Not all solutions offer every feature.

While you may be hesitant to try one because of either cost or learning curve, you should be aware that many marketing automation software vendors:

  • Charge based on use (number of customers, features used, etc.) so the cost scales, and is manageable, as you grow; and
  • Offer solid help as you learn to use their tool including free training, customer support representatives, comprehensive documentation and a supportive user community forum.

Are you considering marketing automation for your small business? If so, here’s a list of marketing automation software solutions to consider.


GetResponse calls itself the “all-in-one online marketing platform to grow your business” and a look down the features on their home page shows just how complete the software is.

While it’s one of the most affordable solutions on this list, GetResponse brings the same, if not more, of the features and functionality offered by the  more expensive solutions on this list. That said, the price does increase with use, but a small business should be able to handle the increase as it grows.


Another affordable solution, ActiveCampaign, offers everything a small business needs to automate its marketing efforts including a robust, built-in CRM system.


Calling itself a “small business CRM”, GreenRope is almost a small business management suite. Starting with marketing automation, you’ll find website tracking, landing pages and more in this affordably-priced solution.


One of the more well-known marketing automation software options, Infusionsoft offers everything your small business needs at a reasonable price. One feature that shows off the power of this solution is the flexibility of the campaign builder. This tool enables you to create elaborate workflows one time and then implement them again and again. These workflows can include many types of steps including eCommerce, appointments, behaviors and actions, webinar attendance and many more.


The only tool on the list to offer a website builder, HubSpot aims to integrate your entire marketing effort in one place. One of the more powerful features of the tool is the ability to personalize your website with “smart content” based on a number of factors:


Act-On offers a robust marketing automation platform. The software offers automation workflows and triggers as well as website behavior tracking, integration with many popular CRM platforms, and more.

One of the more interesting, and useful, features of Act-On is it’s funnel reporting. By setting up a sales funnel, you can track the effectiveness of your overall marketing efforts. Here’s a sample:


Marketo offers a powerful solution with many features. One thing that stood out however was their customized product bundling, an approach that may make the tool attractive for small businesses that want to dip their toe in the water.


One of the most interesting aspects of Autopilot is the number of integrations it enables you to use as part of your marketing automation workflows. For example, below you can see that the bottom right step sends an automated Slack message:


In addition, the vendor offers multi-channel marketing via emails, headsups (little pop-up notifications) SMS messages, and even postcards. Finally, the pricing for this solution is low and scales as your business grows.


Salesfusion is a heavily-loaded marketing automation tool that can help you take your small business to a new level. One standout feature? It’s SEO audit feature that helps improve your search engine rankings.


In addition to it’s marketing automation features, SharpSpring offers additional features including a blog builder and VisitorID tool which attempts to identify anonymous visitors to your website.

Also, the vendor enables you to use your buyer personas to automatically offer unique, targeted content by segmenting your customers based on how closely their profiles match.


Additional Resources

  • SharpSpring Gives Small Businesses More Access to Images Through Shutterstock


While a look at SALESmanago‘s home page may make you run, don’t let the complexity of the vendor’s offerings chase you away. This solution literally has it all and, if that’s what you need, then it’s certainly worth a look.

Wrapping Up

No matter which marketing automation software solution you select, make sure you’re getting the most out of the tool. And remember, you can automate processes beyond marketing, too, so be sure to consider how leveraging other tools can help streamline your small business.

Make a Positive First Business Impression

You’ve probably heard the statistic that we make judgments about people within seven seconds of meeting them. These judgments include opinions about a person’s trustworthiness, disposition, personality, and social status.

How people judge you and your employees reflects on what they think about your business. Choose wisely who represents the face of your company, and ensure they understand the importance of making a good first business impression.

Psychologists at Princeton analyzed people’s inferences about others at 100 milliseconds, 500 ms, a whole second, and longer. They found there was virtually no difference in the judgments at which people arrived after the first 100 ms.

Whether the process takes a few seconds or less than one, there’s no question that how we come across to people when they first meet us is extremely important. This is particularly true if we’re talking about the realm of business.

How well we network with people directly influences our success or failure in our careers and the success of our business. Here are some tips for how to make the best possible first impression possible.

How to Make a Good First Impression in Business

Consider Business Attire

Any time you’re meeting a client, whether you’re doing a leisure activity or having a business meeting, it’s important you present yourself well and appropriately. It is equally important to educate your employees and other representatives on what your company considers appropriate business attire.

Hopefully, you’re taking advantage of trade fairs and conferences, which are opportunities to network with many people at one time. When striving to make an unforgettable impression at a conference, “you can make between 30-100 first impressions in a day.”

Making a good first business impression involves several factors:

  • appearance
  • what you talk about
  • your overall behavior
  • having a plan
  • nonverbal communication

It might seem superficial to stress the importance of attire when making a first impression. But if people subconsciously make snap judgments, how you dress is key to shaping how they see you.

It should be common sense that you don’t want to appear sloppy. But you also don’t want to come across as stiff and formal. That could make you seem unapproachable.

How you dress really depends on your industry, the venue, and your position in your company. You might be surprised to hear that, when choosing your clothing, your own comfort should be one of your top priorities. It will be incredibly difficult for you to interact naturally with others if your clothes are making you feel uneasy and awkward

Make sure your clothing is appropriate and well-tailored. Tailoring goes a long way to making you appear professional. Aim for being stylish without being overly flashy.

Keep your target customers in mind when choosing the appearance you and your employees and other representatives should present. What may be too “out there” for one industry might be perfectly acceptable in another.

Put Others First

Your overall behavior and the decisions you make can have a lot of impact. Your guiding principle should be: put other people’s needs and desires before your own. Listen more than you talk, showing genuine interest in the person you’re with at that moment.

Don’t let yourself be distracted by the people walking around you still want to meet or digital devices. Don’t worry about conversations you’ve had already or ones you hope to have later.

It is getting rarer and rarer for people to give each other their full attention without being distracted by their phones, if not by something else

Giving someone your undivided attention is a gift, and those you meet will appreciate you doing so. Keep the reason why you’re there (to network) at the forefront of your mind.

Don’t get sidetracked trying to make sales. That’s not the point, and you will come across as insincere if you try to sell to people you have just met.

This shouldn’t have to be said, but you’re not at a conference or business meeting to find a date or to kick back and have a good time. Always act professionally toward everyone you meet.

Be aware of how your behavior might be perceived — for example, if there is a bar, how would drinking or even not drinking be perceived by others.

Have a Plan

Being comfortable in unfamiliar territory will be much easier if you go into the situation with a plan. Have a reason for choosing that particular venue.

Find out who is likely to be there and know the particular people or companies with whom you want to connect. Make sure you have business cards ready to go as you mingle. It helps to keep your business cards in one pocket or compartment and cards you receive in another.

We all know that meeting people has the potential to be awkward, so plan out some good questions ahead of time. Avoid standard, cliché topics such as asking people what they do. Also avoid contentious topics such as politics, religion, possibly even sports teams.

Another situation you’re likely to find yourself in is being stuck in a conversation that you want to leave. Have a strategy for how to extricate yourself politely. You could say you need to use the bathroom or don’t want to take up too much of the person’s time.

Work to Remember Names

Something else that is a good idea is becoming skilled in remembering the names of people you meet. This is a difficult technique to master when you encounter so many new people at one time. But it is possible and makes people feel valued.

Try repeating their name when you first meet and using it more than once during your conversation. This helps you remember it later. This Forbes post provides ten excellent tips for remembering names and this video shows the method memory expert champion Ron White uses:

If you happen to run into someone more than once and actually remember his or her name, that person will be very impressed. I suspect this is because so many of us struggle to remember names.

You may find, as I did when asked to speak into a TV camera, that it is challenging to look directly into people’s faces. Maybe we look away politely when we meet them — or at least too quickly to go through the memory process suggested by White.

Watch Nonverbal Cues

One tricky aspect of getting to know people is that we often don’t realize how we are coming across to them. This is understandable. It would be exhausting to analyze how we’re subconsciously communicating every second of the day.

But you could have ingrained habits that cause you to consistently send messages you don’t intend. If so, you probably would want someone to tell you in order to help you communicate better. Do you seem:

  • reluctant?
  • warm and approachable?
  • distant or unfriendly?

Do you smile at people and make eye contact? How do you stand as you converse with them? It’s easy to assume you’re behaving one way without realizing you simply are not. Self-analysis is beneficial, but it’s invaluable to have a more objective point of view.

Ask your friends, coworkers, and family members how you typically come across to others, especially when you meet people the first time. Make sure you get advice from people who will be honest with you and give you helpful feedback.

The more you can make your nonverbal communication align with what you actually intend to say, the more effective a communicator you will be overall — and the better first impression you will make.

Don’t Feel Doomed

It can be overwhelming to hear that, whether they want to or not, people are judging you as soon as they meet you. The reason we emphasize first impressions so much is that in many business settings, we don’t have the opportunity to let people revise their opinions of us.

But while wrong first impressions take some time to correct, it is possible to change them. We’re not doomed to see each from one point of view forever. There has been less research on the topic of altering first impressions than there has been on making them in the first place.

But in 2015, researchers at Cornell found that, when given new information, people completely changed their minds when they realized their initial opinions were wrong. So don’t overly stress about what others think of you. Just do your best to be as personal and professional as possible.

Compete Against REALLY BIG Competition

Small businesses face heavy competition not just from other small businesses, but also from large corporations and industry giants. Facing this type of competition is far from easy. Those big players have much more in the way of resources and existing customers. But it’s not impossible. is no stranger to big competition. The company started out as a small business but has since become a major force in the audiobooks market. That success is a testament to the company’s ability to deal with large competitors, including companies like Amazon and Apple.

How to Compete Against Big Companies

For other small businesses that might be dealing with similar situations, the company’s leadership has shared some tips to help you survive and even thrive when facing big competitors.

Determine What Type of Market Share You’re After

When going up against big competition, you can’t hope to succeed without a really specific strategy. That means going after a specific type of customer or trying to expand the market to include some new customers.

Ian Small, General Manager at said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “You have to ask yourself if you are attempting to take market share from a larger competitor, or if you’re attempting to take a percent of “new business” while expanding the market?”

Highlight What Makes You Different

From there, you need to determine what makes you stand out from your competitors. Then use that in your marketing to make sure you clearly outline why customers should choose you over all their other options.

This could be a difference in your actual products. It could mean that you provide more personalized service. Or it could be other factors like convenience or a unique buying experience.

Become Adaptable

Small also highlighted the importance of adaptability for small businesses dealing with competition from large corporations. Since those large companies often drive change within their industries, it’s important that you be able to adapt to those changes quickly so you don’t lose a step.

For example, your competition might start offering free shipping or returns. If customers start to get accustomed to that, then they might expect it from your business as well. And if you don’t offer it, they could see it as a major negative.

Take Advantage of Opportunities Quickly

In addition, if you’re agile enough to adapt to change quickly, you can also take advantage of new opportunities that come up. Maybe it’s a new trend or type of technology that will allow you to deliver your product or service in a new way. This can give you extra opportunities to differentiate your business from your larger competition that might not be able to move as quickly when those opportunities present themselves.

Use Data to Identify Opportunities

To identify those opportunities, Small suggests relying on hard data.

He says, “Have a disciplined approach to setting goals as well as developing the strategic methods with which you’ll achieve them. To me, this means being data driven – a concept that is frequently voiced but rarely executed effectively. Measuring data (the right data) can be an early indicator to opportunities in the market or deficiencies in your product/service.”

Take Measured Risks

In addition, it can be a good strategy to experiment a bit with new strategies and opportunities. You might just find something that works really well.

Small says, “I would also advise that small businesses experiment as much as possible, without being afraid of failure. Calculated risks can be necessary to succeed and without trying new things, you won’t learn anything new. It’s typically an uphill battle having a larger competitor, so experimenting in different capacities within your business and the consumer market could lead to positive discoveries that can you help you grow and succeed.”

Create Great Content in Boring Industries

The ability to excite and inspire is a critical ingredient for online marketing success. What are you doing today that will connect and engage viewers of your content?

Boring industries don’t have to be boring. NBC built an entire series, “The Office,” around the daily doldrums of a paper company in Scranton, PA. Nine seasons, two-hundred and one episodes, 42 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and it’s still one of the most popular series on Netflix — four years after production ended.

If NBC and Steve Carrell can transform an office servicing the paper industry into a pop culture phenomenon, you can develop content that is exciting and engaging for your industry.

Tips on Content Creation for Boring Industries

Keep reading to learn how to write the kind of online content that grabs your future customers’ imaginations and hopefully their wallets.

Step One: Discover Something that Excites You

Creating content is an exercise in creative thinking. Your best work happens when you’re genuinely engaged and excited by what you’re doing. And it’s not a linear process. Do not expect to go from brainstorming, to excitement, to amazing content.

Instead, let your subconscious do the heavy lifting. Keep yourself engaged in your daily routine of ensuring an amazing customer experience and stellar product or service. But, also, book time to let your mind wander.

Wolfgang Kohler, a 19th century German psychologist, is credited with coining the phrase “Bed, Bath and Bus”. These are the places where creativity strikes — opportunities to let the mind wander without purpose. These moments of everyday routine free the mind to work its magic in solving the challenges of the day — unlocking maximum creative potential.

If you set out to identify the aspect of your work that excites you and potential customers, in a matter of minutes or hours, you’re going to run into difficulty. The most direct path between creativity and inspiration is not a straight line.

Step Two: Research Existing Content

Once you’ve found your source of inspiration (hopefully you had a way of recording the idea when it hit you), it’s time to dig deep. Comb the internet for other discussions surrounding your topic. Read this post for how to use BuzzSumo to find the most popular content ever published by keyword.

Discover how other writers are positioning their content. Watch this short video from Neil Patel who shares his thoughts on why no business needs to settle for boring content:

Are the search results in Google inspiring, instructive, or more observational in nature? Once you understand the content that has already been published, you can begin phase three.

Step Three: Find a Unique Angle or Opportunity to Scratch Deeper

You’ve spent an hour or two researching and reading your competition’s blogs. Hopefully, you’ve experienced a few more micro-bursts of creativity as you read content from outside sources on your chosen topic.

Now it’s time to nail down what you’ll produce, and how you’ll present it. The message you want to send is important — but how you transmit that message is even more important.

Video or text? An infographic or a SlideShare? You’ll find that different formats for content offer vastly different return on investment (ROI). The investment of time, personal relationships and advertising capital needs to be carefully weighed against your current cost per acquisition (CPA).

One of the best ways to keep long-term costs for content development low is to find a unique angle that hasn’t already been covered. If you absolutely must, you can still cover an angle that’s been covered before, but you need to provide more comprehensive and up-to-date information. The goal is to create content that delivers your message in a stronger, more informative way than the content already publicly available.

Step Four: Go Visual

If you’re fighting for attention in a crowded space, it might be time to create content in a variety of formats. In the past, I’ve successfully stolen organic screen space from the competition by creating an in-depth article that includes all of these:

  • current statistics
  • original custom images and graphs
  • a YouTube video
  • an infographic
  • a SlideShare
  • links to additional resources

Creating an interconnected web of content that briefly covers what has been published previously, and quickly pivots to a unique angle or more in-depth coverage of the things that excite you is a recipe for success.

Understand that creating one or two quick pieces of content isn’t going to get you across the finish line. You need to constantly evolve and grow the content web.

Use insights from Google Analytics, MOZ, and BuzzSumo to gauge the effectiveness of your content as it ages. Then double-down on the aspects that are generating longer term results and conversions.

Even Boring Industries Can Get Creative

Remember, you can’t rely on a one hit wonder. Update or replace aging content because new content will grab more attention. It all starts with a moment of inspiration and personal excitement. Create a storytelling journey into a topic or aspect of your product or service that is unique.

The more content you create, the more data you’ll have. Your content efforts will evolve from inspiration to data-driven creativity. And over the course of a few months, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, you’ll find yourself generating the kind of buzz that offers the best long-term ROI.

Business Coach Never Told You About the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry is this generation’s version of the wild west. Instead of covered wagons and an Oregon Trail, intrepid entrepreneurs are diving headfirst into an industry that is evolving at the speed of light.

The rapid pace of change is surprising, considering the product’s prohibition in the United States dates back to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. It took nearly 36 years for Oregon to become the first state in the Union to decriminalize cannabis. And today, 29 states (including the District of Columbia) allow cannabis to be used legally — either recreationally, medically, or both.

Creative, Consistent Promotion of a Powerful Message Pays Off

One of the key ingredients to the recent trend towards legalization in the United States has been a herculean effort by an alliance of Political Action Committees, concerned citizens, and industry leaders in educating the population and fighting burdensome regulations in the courts.

Lessons Learned from Cannabis Marketing

Marketers in every industry should be paying close attention to how the cannabis industry has gained real traction in an uphill battle, against a variety of powerful opposing forces. There are several lessons to be learned – which can be applied to almost any marketing campaign.

Gain Influence by Engaging and Recruiting Powerful Voices to Your Cause

Influencer marketing, even for weed, is a powerful weapon. The reason it turned into the magic bullet for the cannabis industry is that it side-stepped regulations; “Even in Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is legal, you have to prove that more than 70 percent of a TV station’s audience is over 21 to have your ad legally considered.”

So, the key is to implement asymmetrical advertising — pumping information out across multiple channels and amplifying digital content with the help of individuals that have large audiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How Do You Engage Influencers?

In the industry, you’ll hear the term “Try or Buy”. This refers to the practice of allowing prominent individuals (someone with more than 100,000 legitimate online followers) to experience your product — usually a free sample.

If that doesn’t result in a meaningful conversation or shout out, the next step is to offer them a cross-promotion deal. In return for their sharing your message with their followers, you’ll allow them to post an approved message on one or all of your channels. This method usually involves little to no financial cost.

Finally, if all else fails, it’s time to offer a financial incentive for their help. It’s important to understand that the cost of this tactic is generally far less if the individual is already a passionate believer in your cause.

Kissmetrics has an excellent in-depth guide to influencer marketing that I highly recommend for beginners.

All Press Is Good Press

Another advantage that the cannabis industry has successfully leveraged is the old saying: “All press is good press.” In other words, even when someone is speaking out negatively against your product or service, the public consciousness is still being raised to the fact that your brand exists.

Brand and product recognitions is invaluable. And there’s certainly a bump from the “rebel factor”. If a population is told they shouldn’t, or legally cannot use your product, a percentage of the group exposed to the message will feel that the opportunity to rebel is a pretty sexy proposition.

The level of expertise on cannabis issues and challenges in the broader marketing industry has grown immensely. Today there are hundreds of specialized marketing agencies dedicated to promoting cannabis products online, in print and over the airwaves.

Engaging a partner that understands the climate in which your product or service is sold is an important step in gaining an edge over the competition. And embracing an opportunity to launch a promotional campaign that works with the public’s prevailing views, instead of against it, can be lucrative.

While somewhat rudimentary, this popular meme took full advantage of the popular notion that “Everyone would smoke and cities would be ruined if it were made legal.” The clever part in this meme is that, whether you’re for or against legalization, you’re buying into the perception that “Everyone’s doing it.” And perceived popularity moves product.