Business Networking 101: The Art of Personal Branding

People NetworkingI’ve been told quite a bit that I’m a maven when it comes to networking. Recently, I was asked to write some tips for a magazine in California on networking. The tips were so great, that I figured I would share it with all of you. Let me know what you think and feel free to email me if you need additional tips. 

The Art of Personal Branding

Successful networking is basically the same thing as personal branding, and at the end of the day…it’s all about developing a good strategy. Think of your networking strategy in terms of a two-pronged approach: 1. events where your target audience or circle of influencers are most likely to be and 2. events that match your personal interests. 

Business Networking

For the business networking events, make sure to pick a time of day when you’re at your peak. For example, if you’re a morning person, only go to breakfast events. If you’re a night owl, go to evening socials and dinners. By choosing a time of day when you’re at your best, you’re guaranteed to reduce the nervousness factor and make it easier for yourself to meet new contacts.

Personal Networking

For the personal events, make sure to pick topics that are really interesting to you. If you love wine, join a wine club. If you love swimming, get on a masters swim team at your gym. When you share common interests, it’s easy to break the ice and talk about what you do from a non-threatening perspective.

Networking is Like Dating

People buy from people they: like, know and trust. Great sales, and therefore networking, is all about building long-term relationships. So, if you think about networking like dating, the rules are fairly straightforward: be a good listener, make eye contact, don’t act desperate, don’t have a triple espresso before you show up, shower, dress nice and smile.

Control the Conversation

Another tip is to strategically control the conversation. People love to talk about themselves and the more they talk, the more they feel good about you. So, start the conversation by asking them questions about themselves and be genuinely interested. Find ways to connect what they’re saying to what you do or how you can help them. Eventually, they’ll get tired of talking about themselves and ask what you do. That’s your golden opportunity to modify your elevator pitch and integrate key points that came up earlier into what you say so that it shows your actively listening and you can customize/integrate what you do into a problem they’re trying to solve or a value-added benefit to their client list.

Convert Prospects Faster

Finally, be sure to follow up! If you think about sales as having 8-10 touch points, then networking and following up each count as one. Send an email or a personal note after an event, ideally the next day. Connect with them via LinkedIn while you’re still top of mind. Follow them on Twitter or ask them to follow you. If it’s a really good potential contact, suggest a coffee or lunch meeting in 2-3 weeks so that it’s non-threatening but keeps the momentum going. If it’s a good potential referral source, connect them with someone you know that could be a good potential client for them. The more you do, the closer you get to closing the sale.


Angela Hill is the president and owner of Incitrio, a sustainably-minded branding agency located in San Diego, CA.

Sustainability Study Provides Insights Into Designer/Brand Owner Trends

Sustainability Study
A new in-depth print sustainability study investigates designer and brand owner opinion regarding sustainable print practices. Sponsored by Monadnock Paper Mills and conducted by research firm Marketplace Insights, the Study was conducted with over 300 print designers, packaging designers and brand owners. It provides feedback on such topics as the importance of incorporating sustainable practices into projects, knowledge levels pertaining to sustainable print and packaging, the motivations to go green, and the sources most relied on for green design information. The study also probes awareness levels and perceived credibility of many environmental logos often used to display sustainability in print and packaging materials as well as designer and brand owner perceptions of the costs versus the profitability of going green. View the study here.

“We’re aware that the brand owner and designer communities are being inundated with sustainability claims, awards, certification schemes and environmental logos from suppliers, certifying bodies and even the media,” said Dave Lunati, Marketing Director for Monadnock, “We wanted to determine the perceptions of the importance these and the other factors that influence sustainable print and packaging design and determine which information is viewed as credible versus marketing hype from the individuals on the front lines of the green design movement.” The study was conducted online during the fourth quarter of 2008 through banner advertisements on print and packaging websites and through designer user groups and blogs. Respondents were motivated to take the survey by a donation to the Nature Conservancy by the study sponsor for each completed survey.


Angela Hill is the president and owner of Incitrio, a sustainably-minded branding agency located in San Diego, CA.

Next Generation of Collaboration is Innovative and Sustainable: the Napkin PC

Hello Fellow Brand Lovers,
Today, I came across a very interesting post regarding the winner of the Next-Gen PC Design Competition and the first place winner, the Napkin PC. This is a product that is both innovative and green. The future of product and technological innovation is being redefined. Now, it is not enough to have an cool idea, now you must fully integrate form + function. And, you must have a sustainability component fully integrated into the core rather than simply “green washing” your concept. Keep an eye out on the product horizon…this is just the beginning.
The Napkin PCThe Napkin PC
The Napkin PC is a multi-user, multi-interface, modular computer designed for creative professionals to collaborate and bring their greatest ideas to life.

Passion
The Napkin PC aims to bring out the creative passion of the user both individually and in group sessions. It encourages spreading out and allows for multiple creative workflows that can interact or just as easily stay independent. It encourages group interaction and collaboration by allowing any number of interfaces that can be passed around or pinned up, but which all communicate with a central network.

Users’ Culture & Lifestyle
The primary users are creative professionals including those in any field of design, but also expanding to include business and marketing professionals who use creative thinking to come up with business plans or marketing campaigns.

Their primary need is to have a simple system to help keep their creativity moving and maintain good collaborative communication. They want to drink a cup of coffee, pick up a pen and let their creativity flow, without having to sit down later to actually document and organize the information later.

The Napkin PC is a continuously additive system, where each new idea is already documented and organized with references and connections to related ideas. In addition each Napkin interface is an instant portal to the entire network giving quick and easy access and sharing of ideas and reference material.

Market Viability
The design appeals to business professionals. It is ideal for work groups of around 6 people (a typical brainstorming meeting) although the system is easily expandable for larger business.

The viable markets are any business that works with creative professionals. Any company that relies on brainstorming and group collaboration would benefit from using a Napkin PC. A secondary market is creative professionals who work alone or in smaller groups, but who want the same ability to spread out and use multiple workflows.

Size
Napkin interface: 180mm x 180mm x 2mm
Pen stylus: 140mm x 9mm x 10mm
Base station: 160mm x 150mm x 150mm
Mobile station: 45mm x 36mm x 15 mm

Overview of Design
The Napkin PC is innovative because of its multi-flexibility. It can have multiple users, multiple interfaces, and multiple configurations. It breaks the PC down to only the interface— a pen and a space— and then gives you a multitude of both so you can let your creativity run wild.

User & Context
The users are creative professionals who work in collaborative groups. The PC is designed to be used for brainstorming, ideation, meetings, think tanks, etc. — anywhere where creativity is the driving force.

Scenarios of Use
There are two new usage scenarios delivered by the PC. First is the brainstorming workflow. Creativity that normally starts on paper and whiteboards goes instead directly into the PC without the user changing their behavior. This creativity is richer because of the innumerable software tools and resources available on every Napkin interface. It can also be shared, compiled, and compared instantly for a smooth, speedy workflow.

The second scenario is a replacement for printing. Instead of ever putting ink on paper, the interfaces themselves instantly become “prints” when power is removed. They would then be used just like a print, pinned up, handed around, reviewed, etc. When the print is no longer needed the interface is simply returned to the base station as a fresh Napkin.

User Interface
The interface consists of any number of Napkins and one of the Pens. When powered by the Pen, the Napkin is a multi-touch input display which responds to human touch as well as the Pen. The intuitive use of a pen and paper is exploited by the design, making it very easy to use. Also the ability to work on multiple interfaces in parallel, instead of shuffling through windows on a single interface, makes multitasking much easier.

Aesthetics
The Base station is designed to interact like a napkin holder. The user can grab an interface from the stack in the middle of the table. The computer itself is somewhat hidden in the Napkin holder, its only reminder being the OLED status display on the front. The user only really interacts with the Napkins and the Pens. This helps them maintain hands-on, creative freedom. The square Napkin form is used because it is modular, but also because it conveys the idea of being one of many. This helps the user stay relaxed and open minded because less importance is put on a single interface.

Technical Aspects
The key technologies are full color e-Paper, multi-touch input, Inductive power circuits, and high speed RF wireless connections. The e-Paper is key because of its low power consumption, thinness and flexibility, and ability to retain an image without power. Multi-touch is simply the future of intuitive input that makes the PC fun, fast, and easy to use. The inductive power circuits are crucial because they allow wireless power transfer and make the interface Napkin simple and inexpensive enough to be used in large numbers. High speed RF continues to keep everything wireless and intuitively seamless.

Ecology
The environmental sustainability of the PC is most innovative with the Napkin interface. It is the most numerous component and the one most likely to need replacing due to wear over a few years. Therefore it is beneficial to make it easy to recycle which is accomplished by powering it with an inductive circuit. This eliminates a hard-to-recycle internal battery.

The second, and likely more impactful, innovation is the use of the interface as an instant “print.” This eliminates the need for printers, paper, and ink, which are used in large amounts during the creative process.

Manufacturability
The focus of the design is really in the interface – the Napkin and the Pen. Both have very limited actual function because they only relay information between the user and the base station. The Napkins are manufactured by adhering the layers of touch input, display, and power/communication circuit, between a protective plastic cover. The pens have a similar induction circuit and communication antenna set up along with a rechargeable battery to send power to the interface. The Base Station holds the actual PC, which is compact but powerful enough to handle multiple users.

Angela Hill is the President/Creative Director of Incitrio, a branding agency that provides analysis, strategy and tactics for sustainable and clean tech brands around the world.