Need for Speed
Carol Blood, executive director of the La Vista Area Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska, was tired of seeing the same cliques at her group's meetings. "I needed to find a way to serve our members better," explains Blood. So she decided to speed things up.
Speed networking can maximize the meeting power at your next business get-together. Here's how it works: A whistle blows, and two rows of participants have three minutes to introduce themselves and convey key details about their businesses. They exchange business cards and, when the whistle blows again, they move to meet the next person in line.
Erika Barth, 35, says speed sells. The owner of Abante Marketing, a promotional products firm in La Vista, Nebraska, landed one new customer and 10 leads. "When I followed up, I got a warmer response because we had participated in this fun event together," she says.
Follow-up is key, explains Andrea Nierenberg, president of The Nierenberg Group, a business consulting firm in New York City, and author of Nonstop Networking (Capital Books): "This can be a good way to start relationships, but you need to do the work to make them fruitful."
Don't be alarmed if you see a Geiger counter at the Atlanta office of Atomic Fusion, an interactive services firm that provides brand solutions, or if you're asked to don a lab coat and an orange hard hat. You may even get a can full of "energy rations"-those fiery red candy balls you loved as a kid. Everything in the office, dubbed The Reactor, reflects the interactive agency's energy-centered image-right down to the orange décor and the energetic attitudes of Fusionites, as the employees are called. Company president Travis Granville, 35, says this manic branding attracts and retains customers and employees. "If we're telling our clients that their interactive brand is important, we ought to exemplify that," he explains.
That's not a waste of energy, explains Marsha Lindsay, president of Lindsay, Stone & Briggs, a Madison, Wisconsin, marketing firm for the retail industry: "It's much easier to integrate your brand from the start than trying to get people aligned after the fact." Lindsay offers some tips for smart branding:
- Use visuals. Atomic Fusion's logo, office and giveaways all reflect the company's image.
- Don't communicate too many messages-one or two key themes work best. Virtually all Atomic Fusion's imaging efforts reflect the "energy" theme.
- Align employees with your brand mission. If the staff doesn't buy in, it usually won't work. Granville says the company's image breeds loyalty in Fusionites.
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Gwen Moran is a consultant and writer specializing in marketing. Reach her at email@example.com.