Relationship Building Requires Follow-up

Checking in is never a bad idea. Whether to make sure ideas discussed at a meeting were shared in a clear fashion or to otherwise cement your interest in a connection, it’s always a good idea to approach a good situation a second time with a clearer understanding of what you want and how you can help should the occasion arise. This is especially important to note following social events.

Networking is much more than showing up and passing around business cards. To truly connect with people, you have to be willing to put in the extra leg work to schedule a follow-up meeting. By doing this, you set yourself apart as an individual truly invested in developing relationships with those you call back. After this follow-up, you’ll have a much more secure standing with the connections in question.

More Than a Meeting

Keep in mind that a follow-up is more than just agreeing to have conversation over coffee. It’s your time to develop a business plan in regard to what this connection could bring about. Learn what you can about them in order to come up talking points. Study the position they play in the company they work for so you can better understand possible offers they could bring to you or even how you can support them and build a stronger relationship.   Take this time to understand their background is a great way to pursue the relationship further without being blindsided or disappointed due to your own imaginings.

Follow-ups are also more than just one meeting. In order to keep up a relationship, you have to be willing to agree to continue your conversations at many points in the future. By forever sharing recent memories together, you stay fresh in their minds, even if it is just for a 15 minute break over a cup of coffee. This way, you are always at the forefront if they come across a job opening or sales opportunity that would further bolster your position.

Offer First

It’s no secret that we connect with others with the slight hope they will offer us payback in the future. However, this will never happen if you don’t approach the situation as a giver. Setting up meetings is a definite step in the right direction as it offers them your time and your attention.  Their agreeing is payback with their own time. From there, offer what you can based on anything that came up during your talks. Did they mention needing a new babysitter? Give them the contact info of yours. Did they rave about the symphony? Invite them to join you for a night at the music hall. No matter how big or how small, it’s a way to be altruistic and place yourself in a good position in their mind.

To build on this, always make sure that what you’re offering is as clear as possible. Miscommunication can be an immediate relationship killer, depending on the person in question. Where some people laugh off little mistakes, others take them personally and refuse any further contact.

Know Your Goals

To make this follow-up beneficial for you as well, don’t schedule anything until you have a definite goal in mind. It doesn’t have to be anything more than getting their direct line at work, but it has to be something. This will provide you with the motivation to seek them out and schedule them into your already busy day. It will also give you a way to drive conversation if it proves to be a little less exciting than it was at the event you met. To further make this easier, give yourself more than one goal and see how many you can hit before time runs out. This way, should you hit one brick wall, you’ll have a few options of where to go without seeming like an indignant person that just doesn’t know when to stop.

Remember that going in with a goal also takes a bit of societal acumen. If you’re looking for job openings, don’t ask them about it straight out of the gate. Start with friendly talk then steer the conversation toward the topic of jobs. Then, if the situation presents itself, you pounce. Because of this, you may swing and miss at the first few networking follow-ups you pursue. Allow for these mistakes so long as you promise yourself you’ll learn from them. With time, you’ll be a networking master.

About the Author:

Maria Elena Duron is a Marketing Coach and Strategist with Know, Like, + Ignite and @mariaduron on Twitter. Would you like practical tips to create and curate content and experiences worthy of being passed person-to-person? –Get exclusive access.

Stop Making Excuses and Start Building a Great Brand

When you hear the word “brand” do you automatically think of large, established consumer companies?  Organizations with huge marketing budgets, big footprints, and sexy products?  Do you wonder how a start-up or small business with limited resources or how a business-to-business company selling a complex or technical product can build a strong brand?

It might seem that your situation is different and you might blame your lack of resources, your “unique” business model, or some other restriction for not focusing on your brand.  But your challenges really aren’t that unique.  Others like you have adopted a different approach, applying commitment, discipline, and focus on building a great brand.  And they’ve reaped great benefits.  Here’s how.

“We’re too small” is a common refrain among business leaders who believe that brands matter only for big companies.  People who write off examples of brand-building successes, saying that large marketing budgets are what made those bigger businesses so strong, fail to recognize that many great brands, including Starbucks, Nike, and Apple, started their brand efforts when they were resource-constrained. From the very beginning, these companies were driven by a bold mission and attracted new customers by appealing to those who shared their values.

More recently, sweetgreen, a fast-casual restaurant chain, was founded by three students in a 560-square-foot retail space — but they didn’t allow a small start to confine their big ambitions. They set out to create a brand that would make a positive difference in their communities.  In addition to serving up savory salads made of fresh, locally sourced ingredients in sustainably designed buildings, sweetgreen hosts an annual music and lifestyle festival called “sweetlife.” It also teaches thousands of elementary school students about healthy food every year and partners with other socially minded organizations to offer healthy living programs.  In a few short years, sweetgreen’s revenues have grown to more than $50 million, proving that when it comes to building a brand, size doesn’t matter.

Some business leaders think price sensitivity prevents their customers from establishing brand preference. They believe customers in their category make purchase decisions solely on price – brands don’t play a role.

Restaurateurs display this mindset when they continually rely on price promotions to create news and drive traffic. But some companies, including Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, and Buffalo Wild Wings, have thrived without competing on price. They’ve managed to increase the influence of non-price drivers on purchase decisions – factors like experience, service, and brand personality. They’re competing with a different value equation and winning by infusing their brands with perceived value.

Another common excuse for opting out of brand-building is the presence of larger, better-resourced, more aggressive competitors.  You might think your brand-building efforts are doomed, so why bother, right?!

Walmart is probably the fiercest competitor most companies ever battle and yet the grocery store chain H-E-B has taken on the mega-retailer and won.  A couple of years ago, Walmart entered San Antonio, Texas, with guns blazing, announcing plans to bring its legendary low prices to the market. But H-E-B, which had long enjoyed a near monopoly there fought back.  It leveraged its  manufacturing plants to keep its prices competitive with those that Walmart achieved by strong-arming its suppliers. Moreover, H-E-B used its brand differentiation to keep Walmart at bay.  They developed unique private label items that were tailored for Texas taste — and their customers stayed loyal to their hometown favorite.  H-E-B shows that great brands face stiff competition with respect, not resignation.

It’s easy to see how brand-building works in categories such as sporting goods, fashion, and luxury products. It seems harder in those where products seem boring and unemotional. But PIRCH, an appliance, plumbing, and fixtures retailer, proves that brands have a place in unsexy categories, too.

Granted, a refrigerator may be more personal and relatable than industrial equipment or a technology platform, but the leaders at PIRCH could have used the same excuse that other hard goods companies do and designed their stores with a focus on features and functionality.  Instead they saw an opportunity to make their customer experience and their brand more exciting and creative.  From the “Baristas of Joy” who greet customers with offers to make handcrafted espressos, to the quirky signs like “The Demystification Station” that help customers navigate all the features and technology of their products, to the working shower heads that can be fully tested (by appointment; bathrobes provided), PIRCH has transformed the typically laborious process of shopping for home fixtures, with its tedious discussions about dimensions and delivery charges.

The opportunity is to make “boring” products inspiring and fulfilling through a unique brand personality, design details, and extraordinary customer experiences. ACME Brick did it with construction products, Google did it with a search engine, and Evernote did it with a note-taking app. Now PIRCH is doing it with home appliances.

Brand-building works whether your organization is big or small, new or old, out-spent or under-resourced, price-sensitive, differentiation-challenged, or economic cycle-impaired.  So, stop making excuses and start building a great brand!

Learn more about building a great brand in Denise Lee Yohn’s the new book, Extraordinary Experiences: What Great Retail and Restaurant Brands Do – available now.  Blending a fresh perspective, twenty-five years of experience working with world-class brands including Sony and Frito-Lay, and a talent for inspiring audiences, Denise is a leading authority on building and positioning exceptional brands. Denise is also the author of the bestselling book What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass).

The Total Brand Experience

Disney is the master of experience. From the first click to the last day at the park, they grew from an animation studio into a worldwide corporation that has redefined exactly how we think of omnichannel experiences. Year after year after year, they underline just how crucial it is to keep customers engaged no matter where they are doing business with the mouse.

The Omnichannel

In its most basic definition, an omnichannel is a multiple angle approach to a seamless experience for the customer as provided by the company. It’s a way that leads to continued engagement through the phone, website and in-person. Even so, that doesn’t mean constant engagement is always successful. There are a few stipulations that have to be followed to ensure the omnichannel experience works correctly.


Above all, the continued experiences have to be the exact same no matter the medium. Customers that go to a website expecting one thing and are greeted at the door with another will become confused, frustrated and even angry for being lied to. This is why some businesses are portrayed as a villain. Their website paints then out to be a company that cares about its customers, yet any customer that has ever tried to deal with customer service has been met with horrible service.

Disney, on the other hand, has every single channel perfected so that customers expect the same treatment no matter where they run into Disney. Including color schemes, verbiage, content and ease of use, the Disney experience is immersive from start to finish.


Once everything sends the same message, the next step is layers of interaction based on how in-depth the customer goes with the company. While remaining unified, each tier builds upon the last one creating a magical journey and rides that delights them with consistency and trust as they become newly converted fans of the brand. Such a technique is what turns a passing customer experience into a lifelong relationship.

Walt Disney said it best, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” Technology has really allowed Disney to adapt to this even more rapidly.  Enter the Fast Pass, where customers now had control over how long they would have to wait for a ride, making the parks a bit more enjoyable. Hotels began upgrading, becoming themed. Hotel guests were treated to special perks and transportation. Now, they have Magic Bands – a tool that has cemented Disney’s success for the next few generations.

This virtually indestructible wristband contains park tickets, acts as a hotel keycard, works as a credit card, orders food and can be used to track a lost child should the worst happen. It also allows guests to choose their fast passes for the day. In short, it has further taken what would otherwise have been a stressful trip and made it easier than ever to enjoy the parks themselves. Customers can literally forget about their responsibilities because all symbols of responsibility – hotel keys, driver’s licenses, credit cards – can now be left locked up in the hotel room. It’s a stroke of brilliance that has proven just how business changing total omnichannel experiences are.

Harnessing Greatness

As a smaller business, the task can seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. Like all things in life, it’s simply one foot in front of the other. Do what you can now and then expand outward. First, you’ll need to determine what experience you want your users to have and how you want them to be treated during the experience. This concept has to be crystal clear in order to be expanded upon successfully.

  • How do you want people to feel when the do business with you?
  • What does the journey look like as they consider you, do business with you and then refer friends to you?

Once determined, decide where you want to start. Will it be in-house with customer service or online where the majority of your audience comes from? Keep on top of customer feedback as either warning flags or signs of success. Following this, continue expanding outward until your brand is recognized and respected for its impossibly seamless omnichannel approach to the customer experience.

Feel the Sound – Your Audio Brand

With the dynamic nature of sound you can create an emotional connection with the target audience in your business. In some instances, people often tap their feet or hum to a company’s unique tune even when it is not playing at that particular moment.

Sound, and by extension music, taps into the emotions of an audience. When it is delivered reasonably, audio conveys information, entertain consumers, and in the long run helps form a lifelong positive association with customers that reinforces brand values.

Designing an audio brand would mean more than just creating a short melody or a catchy jingle[tweet this]

When considering the right music production source, listen to most of their work as much as possible then compare the overall quality.

Take your time and do the research; talk to the producer and writer to get a feel for their work before you start the project. And you, be the strategist and leader in your own personal brand, to make sure that in every way you express your brand that it’s truly – on brand.

Audio branding, also known as sonic branding, is a verbal identity that gives a brand its own distinct personality using tone of voice. It makes use of sound to reinforce a company’s identity and brand. Sound has always been a great tool to convey memorable messages to consumers as it is something that we’ve been able to consume even when we were in the womb according to Colleen Fahey, U.S. Managing Director of Sixieme Son, an Audio Branding Agency.

Listen in to a recent interview we did about what audio branding.

Author Bio:

Jake Rene is the Know, Like + Ignite Senior Writer, Author.