I know we’ve already posted one blog today, but while digging through the web this morning I came across a great post on About.com on making yourself memorable. How many times have you gone to a trade show or other networking event-or worse, some random family event-only to discover the next morning that you wrote down a phone number and don’t have a clue who it belongs to? Whoever that person was, they weren’t memorable enough that you got up the next morning thinking, ‘Where did I put that piece of paper? I really need to give so-and-so a call today.’

That kind of urgency is exactly what you’re looking for when you’re networking, but that’s not going to happen until you master the art of being memorable.

The question is, how are you going to make sure the people you meet remember you the next morning? Here are 5 tips from industry’s more interesting, fascinating and yes, memorable people on what it takes to make the kind of impression that makes your business impossible to forget:

1)      Be unique. When you look at a bowl of lemons with a random strawberry tossed in, what are you going to remember-the number of lemons in the bowl, or the fact that there was a strawberry sitting on top? People remember the unique, the distinctive and yes, the downright strange. Don’t be afraid to break the mold.

2)      Be involved. Everyone loves to talk once you get them on the right subject, and there’s nothing like a great conversation to open the door to that early morning phone call from someone who wasn’t quite finished. You can’t have a great conversation (or even a mediocre one) without getting involved, however. If you spend the whole night by the food table, the only one who’s going to remember you is the caterer.

 3)      Make them laugh. Why don’t sharks eat lawyers? Professional courtesy! Believe it or not, the last time I heard that joke was while sitting a table full of…yep, you guessed it…New York City lawyers! Just because you’re networking professionally doesn’t mean you can’t bring a sense of humor to the table. Everyone likes to spend time with someone who can make them laugh.

4)      It’s better to be quiet and appear a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt…but it you can open your mouth and not look like a fool it’s even better! I hear people say over and over again not to bother doing your homework before you go to a networking event. I say that’s ridiculous. Not too long ago I had the chance to attend a political function in Washington D.C., and before I went I took the time to scour the newspapers for headlines I normally wouldn’t look twice at so I had some idea of what might be discussed and enough information to form an educated opinion about it. Stay on top of what’s going on and you’ll find the evening flows a lot smoother for everyone.

5)      Don’t spend the whole night making your sales pitch. About a month ago my oldest son’s Cub Scout troop marched in the parade at our county fair. This event always attracts huge numbers of businesses looking for a way to sell their goods and politicians looking for your vote. I don’t remember a single one of the people who walked up to me and handed me their brochures before selling me their pitch. I will never forget, however, the woman from the miniature horse farm who stopped to let my kids pet her horses and spent a few minutes talking to my daughter about her first day of school. It isn’t always about closing the deal.

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Business to business networking is nothing new around here. We see small business owners, educators and non-profit organization volunteers walk through our front doors all the time. In the past few weeks, however, we’ve done a belly flop straight into the deep end of the proverbial networking pool. Why? Because being a good neighbor is about more than keeping our noise pollution down. It’s about taking care of the people and businesses around us.

You never know what you'll cook up when you team up with other local businesses.

What does being a good neighbor have to do with running your business? Let’s say you run a day care center. Do you have posters and/or business cards for the children’s consignment store down the street out where your parents can see them? Do you regularly hand out flyers and coupons for upcoming events from your local children’s theatre?

If the answer is no, your neighborly skills could use some work.

The point of being a good neighbor is to adopt an “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” attitude toward small business networking. It’s really easy to do. Hop online (or open your local Yellow Pages, if you actually use it for something other than propping up the short leg on your dining room table) and find non-competing businesses that cater to your target market. Then, play let’s make a deal. They recommend your business, you recommend theirs.

At the end of the day, both of you walk away a winner.

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It’s all in who you know. We’ve all heard that saying over…and over…and over again, but never is the importance of good networking skills more obvious than when you’re trying to drum up support for your non-profit.

Remember when I was talking about the reasons that businesses would decide to support your organization? Sure, there’s a little quid-pro-quo involved, but any business you’re going to talk to about being involved in your non-profit is going to enjoy the good feeling they get from giving back just as much as they are the tax breaks and positive PR your organization can give them. When you’re soliciting donations from individuals rather than corporations, however, you’re going to need to turn down the quid-pro-quo and approach it from a personal angle.

You’re going to have to sharpen your networking skills.

Make the Connection

Do you have any idea how many non-profit organizations are currently operating in the United States? As of the beginning of 2010 there were 1,515,746 non-profit and charity groups operating in the US, keeping in mind that since there are plenty of organizations that slip into a gray area when they’re being tallied up those numbers aren’t entirely set in stone. You’re going to be facing a huge amount of competition when it comes to generating support for your non-profit.

The best way to encourage individual donations is to connect with the individual, and that’s where your networking skills need to kick in. It’s your job to forge that personal connection with your donors. They need to know why your cause matters, what you’re doing to help and what their contribution is going to do. Connecting with them on an emotional level is going to be the difference between walking away with a long-term donor and a donation in hand and just walking away.

Of course, it’s one thing to know that you need to forge that emotional connection. It’s another thing entirely to actually make it happen. Relax. Take a deep breath. You’ve already got all the networking skills and tools you need. The fact that you’re working with the non-profit means you have compassion. The fact that you’re actively soliciting donations means you’ve got dedication. The fact that your organization trusts you enough to send you out as their representative means you’ve got passion. That passion, that sense of drive, is what’s going to bring your donors around to your side.

Everyone wants something to stir their blood. They want to feel like they’re a part of something, to know that the choices they make and the actions they take are going to change the world. They want to feel as though a part of them is going to live on long after they’re gone.

Forging the Right Links

Now that you’re all fired up and ready to take your newly empowered networking skills for a test drive, let’s back the car up just a little bit. It’s one thing to know you’re going to go out and connect with people that might one day help you save the world. That job gets a lot more overwhelming when you realize it takes more than 5 or 10 donations to keep a non-profit flowing smoothly. Can you really spend your entire day wheedling donations from each and every one of your potential donors?

Of course not. There just aren’t that many hours in a day. So, as unfair as it might be-and it really is unfair, when you get right down to it-you’re going to have to pick and choose which potential donors you’re going to wine and dine with your precious free time. I suggest taking a three pronged attack to networking from this point on:

1)      Put all of that passion and fervor into creating some awesome promotional materials to draw in new donors. After all, who knows the beauty of your cause better than you do?

 2)      Mingle at every event you attend. Just a few minutes with each group of guests could secure thousands in donations for your organization and create a positive impression of your non-profit they’re not going to forget any time soon.

 3)      Take time to personally speak with potentially large donors. Let them feel personally welcomed, and encourage them to get involved. There’s a lot more that goes into keeping a non-profit running than money. Seeing your organization in action will not only help them feel more connected, it also gives them the chance to understand just how much good their donation can do.

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It’s the question of the century-if you’re going to be launching an online business, how much offline advertising do you really need to do? Should you take the time to launch a full-scale marketing campaign, or should you just trust the Internet to get you where you need to go? Is taking money out of your (already stretched too thin) marketing budget to create business cards a wise move, or should you continue pumping it into your PPC campaign and leave well enough alone?

It’s not hard to dismiss the importance of business cards, especially when you’re not going to be wining and dining clients (and, by default, not necessarily going to be passing your business card out to every Tom, Dick and Harry that happens to come your way). An online business is firmly rooted out in cyberspace, and many online business owners who are just starting out don’t feel the overwhelming need to tie their web-based business to an offline marketing effort that’s going to eat up their money-especially when 90% of those business cards are going to be left to sit, unused, for who knows how long.

Now, if you’ll note, I said that only new online business owners don’t put thought into business cards. Why? Because as any savvy business owner can tell you, any business is good business. When you hand a business card for your online business to someone you’re talking to, what do you think is the first thing they’re going to do? They’re going to go home and look you up online. If they like what they see, they’re going to refer you to their friends, their family, their buddies online and anyone else they think might benefit from your services.

Why sacrifice that kind of networking ability when it’s sitting at your fingertips?

Let’s face it, we live in an online society. Husbands and wives “chat” with each other across the room instead of actually turning around to speak. With the online and offline worlds blended that smoothly, picking up business cards for your online business is really just good sense.

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