What to do when a client fires you?

A client of mine called me the other day. Said they won’t be needing my services anymore.
Ouch.
No matter how much you train yourself to deal with rejection, the initial feeling you feel is a kick in the stomach. And this was a good client, one I’ve been working with for over a year. A client with whom I’ve had great working relations, where I known many team-members. Even worse- a client for which I’ve delivered great value. So the first reaction is always one of shame and misery- why did he “fire” me? What have I done wrong? And why do I deserve this treatment?
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I took a few deep breaths, and decided to be the professional I aim to be. I thanked him for the opportunity to work together. I told him I’ve learnt a lot from him (the CEO) and from his team. I also told him I appreciated the fact he took the time to call me from abroad and notify me in person.
After hanging the phone I sat and down and did some thinking. What else can I take from this rather depressing moment?
I came to the realization that I should not view this as a personal insult, but as a jumping pad for doing better work at the future. There are 2 key benefits I can take away from this engagement. The first is to try an understand what I was or weren’t doing enough that made the client turn away. I actually asked the CEO that and his very candid answer was that they have now decided to create content in-house, so they will no longer out-source it.
A classic “it’s not you, it’s us” answer, but an answer nonetheless. Looking forward I must solidify my business case and show potential (and existing ) clients the value I bring. Value, which is far superior to anything they will have in-house.
The second benefit I can take from this would be to receive a recommendation. Now, asking someone who’s just fired you for a recommendation is counter-intuitive. But since he stated he was happy with the work and decided not to move forward for other reasons, there should be no problem for him to recommend me.
So I wrote him an email asking for a written recommendation to post on my LinkedIn profile. But since I’m aware that most people are too busy to sit down and actually write a proper recommendation letter, I’ve also suggested to him that I will write my own note and that he will approve and publish it. Which he was very happy to do.
Last but not least- I thought about synergies. If this client decided not to work with me anymore, this opens the door to other vendors I know who could either take my place or offer other services?
For instance, knowing that this customer has decided to create content in-house means that he might be in need of other services, such as lead generation, SEM or social media management. I asked the CEO if he’s looking to complement his internal content capabilities with external services and he asked me for some recommendations, which I happily provided (I’m always happy to share leads with colleagues, and I know they will reciprocate in kind in due time).
So there you have it. I wasn’t able to turn lemons into lemonade, but I got one decent recommendation, I have potential helped some colleagues get some work and I’m happy and proud with the work I’ve done for this customer.
And one last thing- this is a very small world. I’ve had my share of breaking up with bad employers, and I try my best to conclude any engagement on a positive note.
So after receiving the recommendation letter I wrote to the CEO that he is welcome to call me if he has any marketing related questions and I will assist. You never know- he might be calling some day with another job proposal…

 

 

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How to make the best use of conferences B2B platform – 8 easy hacks

As much as we marketers would hate to admit it, not all marketing is digital (here’s a great example of such offline marketing strategy: https://owntrepreneurship.com/2016/12/21/for-real-marketing-impact-go-offline-and-old-school/).

Conferences, trade shows and expos still bring in large crowds, and as marketers we simply cannot ignore the possibility to engage with our target audience. However, conference have become so commercialized that it is impossible to make an impact without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lavish booth, VR experiences and raffles.

 

But there is still one tool in your toolbox that most underutilize. This is the online B2B platform. Using this in an intelligent way can lead to scheduling multiple meetings with relevant people regardless of your ability to spend (sometimes without even having to have a booth at all!). Let’s start.

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1.     Set your profile 
Just like on any other social platform, you need to have a decent profile which includes a headshot, short description and contact details. Don’t be lazy and add links to your website, social media accounts and phone number.

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2.    Choose areas of interest

Make sure you list your areas of interest and make them visible to others. It ensures people can check if you have any relevancy to them and that if they do agree to meet you it would be a productive meeting.

3.    Search for relevant people
This is the real deal.
You must take the time to search various combinations of key words to identify relevant people you might like to engage with. Copy all the names to a spreadsheet and start to go one by one and contact them.

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4.   Contact

This is the tricky part- some B2B platform do not allow for direct contact without the approval of the other person. Some are only used to set meetings at a designated area at specific times. Whenever possible, complement any meeting request with a short written note, explaining who you are and why you would like to meet them.

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5.    Connect using other channels
Don’t rely Solley on the B2B platforms inmail. Connect with the person on LinkedIn as well. Sometimes these platforms include a link to the person’s profile, but even it it’s not listed, it should be fairly easy to find on LinkedIn. Once found you can use the same approach note for the request to connect. Once connected you can send an inmail with a request to meet at the conference.

6.   Try their personal email or phone.

If a person connects with you on LinkedIn but does not answer the inmail meeting request you still have two more options- you can extract their email from their LinkedIn profile and email them, or, if they have a phone number listed on their profile- you can even try the odd cold call.   

7.    Hack the app- nowadays every event has its own mobile app. And while I wouldn’t suggest to conduct all these activities using the mobile app, but you can certainly use it for certain tasks. For instance, Some desktop B2B platforms do not allow messaging / inmail option, while the same B2B mobile does allow it. Mobile app also shows you people around you at any given event or talk- which makes for even more focused targeting (e.g. you can see everyone who’s attended a session about a specific area and target all of them as qualified leads).

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8.   The gift that keeps on giving:
The conference has ended? There are still people you need to connect with? Fear not! Oftentimes the B2B platform will stay online for many days after the conference has ended, allowing you the same access to information as before.

In summary- Using B2B platforms requires very little skill, and a lot of diligence. Done right it can increase the effectiveness of participating in a conference tenfold.

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Bonus- all B2B platform require registration but most don’t actually check you are registered to the conference itself. This means you can try to set meetings and only after you’ve verified enough interest you can actually register to the event. It also means you can get real marketing value without presenting.

Bonus II- always complement your B2B activities with notifications on social media before, during and after the event. It might remind people who are not listed on the B2B platform of your existence an push them to set a meeting with you.  

How to use Quora for inbound marketing

Recent funding round of Quora left no doubt- it means business. Raising round D of $85 million Series meaning Quora is now worth around $1.8 billion.

With 190 million monthly users, most of which are active and considered quite intelligent, this is a great source for inbound marketers.

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I have been using for some time now and find it surprising not many do. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Find answers to questions that bother you
    This may seem trivial, as it’s the goal of this platform. But if you have any marketing or market related question, Quora would be the best place to get professional answers. This could be very helpful as a marketer in general, as well as provide specific insights you may need for a campaign.
  • Market research- This isn’t as obvious, but you can learn much about the market, potential users’ behavior and sentiment on this platform. All you need to do is ask
  • Competitive analysis- Here you’ll need to be more subtle, but in many areas people discuss pros and cons of specific products, which you can learn a lot from.
  • Content research: you can easily understand what’s bothering people and which topics are left unanswered by searching for a answer and seeing how many people asked such questions, how many people follow these questions and topics and what it the general quality of these answers. Generate your content accordingly and don’t forget to ask/ answer and link back to it. You’d be helping people get the information they crave and gain traffic to your publication.
  • Thought leadership
    Quora has an option to host a blog, but it could be difficult to maintain in parallel to the blog of a brand you are trying to promote. Instead, be an authentic voice and position yourself as an
     authority on topics which are relevant to your business.
  • Traffic- Answer questions:
    This is what we’re really here for. If you can answer someone’s question, provide helpful details AND link back to your site you can create a constant traffic stream back to your site. Be helpful and subtle, Quora forbids you from simply pasting post written elsewhere or simply pasting links to external sites.
  • and some more traffic- ask questions
    Asking questions drives traffic, engagement and positions you as a thought leader.
    Here’s one example of a question I’ve asked on Quora that keeps sending people to my site, 2 years later:
    https://owntrepreneurship.com/2016/05/16/how-one-post-generated-tremendous-traffic-to-my-blog/
  • Incorporate Quora search, question and answering into your routine content creation process:
    I’ve incorporated it into my social media published routine- I ask a “leading” question regarding every new post I publish, and add the post link in the questions’ details.
  • Don’t forget to share on social media
    Quora answers and questions are easily shared on Social media, and these tend to get nice traffic (don’t forget to include .@quora and #Quora in your tweets).

 Beware of one caveat- Quora does not allow to open company profiles, so all this activity will be conducted under your own name. Make sure you adhere to Quora rules and etiquette (yes- there’s an answer for that as well: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-major-policies-and-guidelines-on-Quora)

 BTW- here’s my Quora profile: https://www.quora.com/profile/Yotam-Gutman-2

Communication preferences for the busy entrepreneur

You get this every day as a freelancer/ entrepreneur – bombardments of emails, messages and calls. It used to be though but manageable, but nowadays it’s become worst. Not because there is more of, but because these messages are distributed across multiple communication channels.

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Multi-channel communication stress

So every time you think you are done replying to all the import emails you check your Facebook and see your inbox is full there. Skipping to LinkedIn – again, many unread messages. And your phone only makes it worse- WhatsApp, text messages and an odd (perhaps a tribute to the 90’s ? ) voice mail you haven’t checked in 3 months.

Oh, and there’s that thing the phone is actually made for. Calls. But most of the come in at a time you are unable to answer, so they become missed calls which you should now return.

And there’s a different etiquette for each communication channel, too.  It’s ok to respond to an email a few hours after you got it, but if you start a WhatsApp/IM conversation and queue for some time the other side gets pissed- why aren’t you answering.  

And Even Email, the form of communication invented to save time and make communicating across the globe effortlessly, is difficult for us freelancers, who use anything between 2-5 email address at a time.

Do it like the Navy

So after battling with this difficulty for a while, I decided to go back to my root. Back when I was at the Naval Academy we were taught how each in operational includes a Communication chapter. It lists all the frequencies, participating units and code names. It also list the Communication preferences for each entity during the different phases of execution.

For instance- a Surface vessel should try to communicate first using SATCOM (less chance of it being intercepted), then other means and finally HF frequency, which can be triangulated and disclose the vessel’s location to the enemy (don’t worry, this isn’t top secret stuff, it’s common knowledge since WWII). For us tactical officers, in charge of our ship’s communication, this little table was like a bible. We would memorize it, copy it and paste it around the comms room, bridge and literally anywhere where someone could pick a handset and send a transmission.

And since everyone in the fleet knew these rules, you had no misunderstanding and grief over who contacted who and in what channel.

Communication preferences for contacting me

So here’ my Communication preferences. If you want to reach me, please start from the top and if you don’t get a response quick enough move to the next option.

  1. Email
  2. WhatsApp
  3. LinkedIn messenger
  4. Text Message
  5. Call
  6. Tweeter IM
  7. Google Hangouts
  8. Skype IM
  9. Voicemail (only if older than 40)

And if you really want my attention – let’s meet Face to Face (but make sure you schedule it via Email. It listed right here : Yotam’s email

 

How to create and distribute content when you have no blog?

Conventional wisdom tells us that a blog is an anchor for all content marketing activities. It is where you publish content with the hope of driving traffic to your site- which will somehow miraculously convert into signups or leads.

But sometimes, a blog is not available. The company’s website might not have a blog, or it could be under construction. I’ve had the misfortune of working with companies where this was the state throughout my entire engagement. So what do you do then? Giving up on content as a strategy seemed lazy and shortsighted, so I improvised. And I’ve learnt some helpful tips that might help others too.

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When in doubt, use a social network as your blogging platform

Pick an alternative blogging platform

No Blog? No problem? Medium is an excellent blogging platform, that allows to start blogging right away and enjoys an in-house crowd and as easy to distribute or share as any native blog. In addition, there are industry- specific blogging sites (for instance- InfosecIsland , informationsecuritybuzz) that are vying for guest writers (sometime they allow only novel content, which means that even if you have a blog you can only publish original content there). These do not require any setup- you simply submit the text (via email) or upload it an that’s it. These sites enjoy very relevant traffic and also share and promote your content via their social channels.  

 

Use Social as your blogging platform

LinkedIn Pulse allows to publish very long, content-rich (visuals, videos, links) posts. In addition to being extremely easy to edit and publish they also guarantee native audience and exposure that most blogs can only dream of. Easy to share within and outside the platform, this ensures very good visibility and reach.

Some people use Facebook in the same manner, and enjoy similar benefits (although the target audience is different and long text posts on Facebook are not as appealing to read as on LinkedIn).

Leverage guest blogging and partners blogs:

If you work with partners you can provide them with content they can post on their blog- they will be more than happy to from two reasons- they need quality content and you will help them sell your product, which is what they ultimately desire. Similarly, many industry blogs accept guest post and provide with backlinks and credit, and they will be willing to reciprocate once you have a blog.

Use PR and media publications

If you are lucky enough to have a PR agency or access to media, you can use it to show your stuff to the world. Many industry media outlet accept guest post and thought-leadership pieces (they are more willing to do so via a PR agency they are familiar with then through cold email, but even if you don’t have one it’s worth a shot). The upside (other than seeing your pieces published by someone else, which is always nice) is that they are perceived as more prestigious and professional than self-generated posts.   

Guidelines and best practices 

However, posting on external platform is not the same as post on your home turf.  Here are some best practices you might like to consider:

 

  1. Speak in one voice
    On a company blog you can choose if you publish under “the company” or a specific function; CEO, VP Marketing, etc.
    When publishing elsewhere it will be usually done using a specific person- the company’s CEO LinkedIn account (you can read all his “posts” in the following link) , for instance. So the piece needs to be written in a first person voice and suite his personality. As the content creator you must make sure he or she are comfortable with the article they have “written” (this might sound funny, but I ghost-write for a startup CEO for many months and people were so certain it was his own work they applauded him frequently ).
  2. But consider some diversification
    A single person can only write (or have solid opinions) on so many issues, so, from time to time write as the head of sales, product or R&D. It will make things look more authentic (and they too, will reap the praises for your writing!)
  3. Amplify the same way you would for your own post
    That’s right, tweet it, FB it, post it in places like stummbleupon and Reddit . The same as any blog post.
  4. Consider the peculiar nature of the platform
    If your posting on LinkedIn, maintain a more professional and traditional approach than on Facebook.
  5. Engage
    People will “Like” and comment or your post (which they never will on your blog)- so use it to create real conversations and convert them into actual leads.

 Summary

 Publishing quality content without a blog is a challenge, but once you’ve mastered it you can use it even if you do have a blog. For instance, I publish mostly on Owntrerenuership.com, but from time to time will post on LinkedIn- it gets more exposure and helps build my audience.

  

Know your basics – LinkedIn privacy and security settings

New and proficient users of LinkedIn alike tend to overlook the potential privacy and security issues related to the platform. I’ve written extensively in the past about potential risks of fake profiles and social engineering, but I’ve never dived into the actual security and privacy settings.

But recently I’ve helped a friend to set up and account for the first time and was forced to take a closer look into my accounts’ settings. I did not like what I’ve found. On one hand, LinkedIn has made it very easy to access and configure these settings. On the other, the default option of most of these is “On”, or lesser security. But as we online security and privacy are our own responsibilities, I’d rather focus on explaining how to manage these better (I’ll save my criticism for LinkedIn for a later day, they can do a lot more in terms of securing their users and mitigating fraud).

What do I need to do?

Define a solid, unique password

Start with the basics- define a robust password, and make sure it a unique one (see this article about the risk of password re-use.

 

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Password change (mine hasn’t been changed in 2 years, so it was time to update it)

 

And change it from time to time

LinkedIn now tells you how long it has been since you last changed your password. Mine’s been the same for a little over 2 years, which means it badly needs a change.

Activate 2 factor authentication

It is highly recommended that you activate this feature, which mandates to use 2 step when trying to set up an account on a new device or recreate a forgotten password.

 

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2 Factor Authentication

 

See how many devices and locations are signed in

We access LinkedIn from multiple devices and locations. We often forget and might be logged in on some forgotten PC or device we no longer use. Check it and kill all devices you don’t use on a regular basis.

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Check how many Email addresses are associated with your account

If you are like me, you’ve accessed your account from multiple positions and companies, including some you no longer work for. Given that email addresses are often stolen and sold you are leaving the door wide open here- so cancel the association of unused email addresses with your account.

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Check which applications are associated with your account and limit data sharing with 3rd parties

Almost any application (web or mobile) asks our permission to connect to our account and is granted access to our entire data. We grant permission and forget about it, but the 3rd party can continue to access our data long after we’ve stopped using it.

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Remove applications you no longer use and block sharing of information with 3rd Party apps you did not specifically signed to.

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Decide which parts of your profile are showed as part of your public profile

LinkedIn profiled are searchable both from within LinkedIn and through Google, so you can decide which parts of your profile are shown to the world.

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Download a copy of all your activity

Thanks to data privacy laws, LinkedIn must provide you (up to 24 hours) a copy of all your data that reside within the system. Or you can simply download your contacts. You decide.

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Bonus Tip- Translate your profile

This is a nice little feature LinkedIn now offers- you can create multiple profiles in different languages (you do need to translate it yourself, though).

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For real marketing impact, go offline and old school

We are all digital marketers, and we perceive the older generation of marketers as old, outdated dinosaurs. marketing

The traditional marketing conventions; a physical booth at a  tradeshow, printed brochure, mail (that’s right, as in actual mail, not email)  seem to have passed from this world.

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But sometimes, it makes sense to go back to the roots, go offline and old school. Not for ordinary marketing activities, the ones we carry out for our customers.  No, I reserve this high value, high impact, resource- heavy approach to marketing the one thing I care about the most- myself. So several months ago, just before the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana (Jewish new years’) I’ve done something I haven’t done in a decade. I sat down and wrote a letter. It wasn’t a lengthy piece, nor an informative one. It was more of a greeting card/ thank you note combo. I bought 10 greeting cards and envelopes and wrote a thank you / happy New year note to all my clients.

I included ones I’ve stopped working with a while ago and ones I was talking to on a daily basis. I wrote that I wanted to thank them for trusting me with managing their marketing activities (even if it was brief, and ended long ago).

The process was harder than I thought. First, I had to write down the text a word document (just to make sure I don’t miss anything and don’t make any gross spelling mistakes). 

Then copy this to the paper, seal the envelope, glue a stamp, walk to the nearby mailbox (which was hard to find) and mail these. 

The actual act of writing a note, word for word, took me forever. My handwriting was never a pretty sight and it has deteriorated over the years to this ugly mess. Still, I wanted people to be able to decipher what I wrote so put great effort into writing. I delivered half of these envelopes myself. 

I didn’t trust the mail service to deliver these on time, and I also wanted to see the expression on people’s faces when I showed up at their doorstep and handed them a hand written note.

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That proved to be amusing and rewarding indeed– most people were surprised , even baffled when I handed them the envelope, but when they opened it and read they lit up, smiled and thanked me.

I think it’s the combination of the effort, attention and the physical object that laid in their hands which made all the difference. I have never received a response so warm to an email, I can tell you that.

So if you haven’t done so yet, grab a pen and a piece of paper, some decorated card and a nice looking envelope and start writing. 

It’ll feel awkward at first but after the first letter it will get easier. The effort shouldn’t “cost” you more than 2 hours, but the benefits you can reap will be huge:

1.      Positioning

You will forever be remembered as the guy who cared enough to write a note. If that’s not a great positioning for a marketer I don’t know what is.

2.      Care

You showed (in actions, not words) that you care about your clientele.

3.      Rekindle older leads

You can actually use this activity to touch base with old leads. Who knows? they might be so impressed by the effort they will hire you again.

4.   Creativity and confidence

Everyone is trying to be cool, innovative and novel. But going old-school proves you have guts and creativity. It’s so easy just to send a mass email with some stock image, but you are going to do more.

Try it this holiday season. Even if the card arrives after the holidays it will still delight and impress your clients. After all – isn’t this what marketing is supposed to do?

No ideas for content ? here are 10 suggestions for you

It happens to all of us, content marketers. We are faced with a deadline and need to generate a piece of content, but we simply have nothing to write about. Sure, some would say that if you don’t publish content which is super-interesting, valuable and engaging you really shouldn’t be publishing at all. I respect this but most client won’t, and most marketers will be forced at some point to force themselves to generate content. For some its even worth than lack of inspiration or writer’s block- some unfortunate souls have the daunting task of writing for and about companies and products which are not that interesting.

Whatever the reason is, we all need some help with generating content. Here are 10 tips for generating content when you having nothing to write about:

  • Re-use

Perhaps the easiest thing to do is to take an older piece and re-edit it to look and feel like something new. You can take a lengthy article and turn it into list (10 tips for XXX) ot groups items from multiple items to form a new one (https://intsights.com/halloween-special-creepy-finds-on-the-darknet/). You can revisit old articles and explore their validity in regards to new developments. Do try to avoid making only cosmetic changes and reposting unchanged old materials- that that’s recycling.

  • Go visual

When you have nothing to write about, try to create a visual post. Turn a list into an infographic or make a post completely out of visuals (this also works well when reusing older materials, as it can be views as some sort of expansion or elaboration on a topic you’ve already discussed).  In addition to being the easiest way to generate content, it is suited for publication directly on social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  At this humoristic Halloween post, we dressed the team of a cybersecurity company as hackers: http://resec.co/halloween-is-a-time-for-mischief-but-traditional-cyber-stock-photos-are-just-a-bad-joke/

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  • Shoot a video:

Instead of doing another piece about your technology, make a short clip to capture the usability, user experience or workflow. Video is easier to consume, share and will certainly boost your SEO rankings. Plenty of cheap or free editing software around, and you can easily combine footage from your smartphone with screen capture video and record voice commentary directly on your laptop. Here- instead of writing a boring post inviting people to meet them at a conference, the CEO sends a short video message:

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Video

 

  • Comment

Find a relevant research or news item and write a commentary article, which will show the audience that you’re aware of what’s happening in the industry and not afraid to speak up. Make sure the commentary is not to harsh or self-promoting. Here ReSec CEO comments on the state of phishing as reported by another vendor:

http://resec.co/spam-returns-to-2010s-record-numbers-but-now-with-a-new-trick/

 

  • Summarize

Same idea as commenting- find a lengthy piece of research that no one will read and write a much shorter post focusing on the highlights. In addition to providing great value to people (including executive who don’t have the time to read these 70+ pages research paper) you can chose which angles to highlight and focus on- naturally the ones which strengthen your messaging. Here is an example, aptly titled: “We Read the 70 Page 2016 Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment Report So You Don’t Have To”.

 

  • Write about the non- professional aspect of your company

You are allowed to stray off-topic if you uncover an interesting angle and provide something unique to your audience. Instead of writing a very mundane post notifying customers that one of my clients has moved to a new office, we turned it into a piece on how their CEO uses constant engagement to keep motivation high and attrition low (he basically rented and renovated new offices in complete secrecy, and took all the employees there under the pretense of an off-site lunch. The employed were surprised and delighted to find new, cool offices instead https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/work-space-environment-dotan-bar-noy?trk=mp-reader-card)

  • Though leadership

You can project thought leadership in many aspect of business and life, not just these which are related to your specific product or market. If a CEO is volunteering at an animal shelter and encourages other employees to follow him, it sends a powerful message, regardless of their line of business. It’s also very easy to produce and can be shared in many places, according to theme- Leadership, management, HR, etc.

  • Interview-

When there’s nothing better to do, just interview the CEO or the employees. You can gain terrific professional insights (what are the customer’s pain points for example) and show your company’s diversity and culture. Big plus- it also serves as a great source of pride and motivation within the organization.

  • Guest post

Zero effort to generate (other than several emails), can add diversity and external expertise and drive traffic from audiences which are not usually within your reach. The downside? You will either need to buy it or reciprocate in one way or another. At CyberDB we have a roster of guest bloggers and find their posts to be of great quality:

http://cyberdb.co/iot-ddos-will-learn/

 

  • Write about something else

This post for example, links to several other post which will now gain traffic and exposure. You can even write about the content production process itself (like I’ve done here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/some-vital-tips-making-corporate-clip-staying-alive-yotam-gutman?trk=prof-post)

 

I hope these suggestions will help you get out of a slump. As always, remember that your content/ publication calendar is your friend and try to stick to it- it will save you the last minute rush and the need to innovate and be creative- Something which I’ve found to be in want specifically in times of crisis.

 

 

The Gig economy is coming for your job. This is how you will cope

This is not some dystopian dream. Nor is this a fad. The so-called gig-economy is coming and will be a significant part of our lives very soon (if it isn’t already). The “Gig-economy” is a phrase coined to describe the “Uber-ization” of the workforce in the coming decades. It basically means that every service which could be outsourced will be, and will be done so on a demand basis. You need to go to the grocery? You’ll have someone do that for you. You need to drive across the city? Someone will pick you up. You need to submit a complex excel sheet by tomorrow morning? Someone will create it for you. Everything will be price by the deliverables, making almost everyone an ad-hoc service provider. We all realize that the job security of yesteryears is forever gone. No assurance of employment until our retirement. But we still hope to have at least a steady monthly income.

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But with the “on-demand” trend raising, many jobs will shift to a more flexible base. The services sector (including government) is the largest in all modern economies (after most of the manufacturing and agriculture have been mechanized). But this is exactly the sector which will suffer the most from this shift- no need to have so many people on the payroll- an employer can simply hire or order services on demand, reducing fixed costs and increasing his flexibility. Even sophisticated jobs like software development, IT and legal will suffer- these can easily be outsourced and consumed on demand using the global network of talents and freelancing hubs such as upwork or Fiverr.

While it is easy to dismiss the above as a simply a worrisome prediction, but it isn’t just a dystopian view of the distant future, it’s a process that is happening before our eyes, and only gaining momentum. So unless you are a barber, plumber or chef’ (these professions can’t be perform from remote and it will take many years before robots will be able to perform these tasks) you should be concerned for your occupational future.

But concern isn’t a great action plan, so instead, try to see how you can adjust to this new, albeit scary reality. In the following section I will describes the mental shift and skills required to survive this shift, and offer some tangible advise to “hack” this trend

1.      Think like a freelancer

This mind shift is extremely hard for people who were employed in full time jobs for most of their grown lives. It requires one to embrace uncertainty and forgo the monthly paycheck and job security. But it is surely better to develop this mental toughness independently and not be forced into it by layoffs. This as job as something temporary, and always think about your next one. Acquiring this mindset is hard but once it settles in it will ensure you greater flexibility and an open mind to seek new and interesting opportunities an employee is oblivious to.     

2.      Develop skills which you can sell as a service

Or even better, skills which you can sell as a service from remote. Can you write? Paint? Teach? Then there’s definitely something you can offer others. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a real “profession” or something you’ve learned in university, just something you are good at, can deliver to other and (hopefully) charge for.

3.      Find your USP- Unique selling point

This is unfamiliar for an employee, but something a freelancer knows how to articulate very well. What is it that you do that is different and better than your competition? If you provide pre-visit tips and planning services for people visiting your hometown, in what ways are you different than your competitors? Are you a foodie? Can you hook people with the coolest, under the radar restaurants? Then you’ve found your USP… now all you need to do is market it and sell it.

4.      Online presence and marketing

Ahh, marketing and sales. Most people hate these aspects of business and are happy someone else in the corporate is handling these “uglier” sides of life. Guess what? As a freelancer it’s 100% up to you to market and sell yourself and your services. The marketing is easier for most- in today’s world all you really need is a solid online presence, like a blog, facebook page Pinterest profile. You need to invest resources in making this presence as professionally looking as possible  and update it regularly. One tip I can provide- be very clear about what it is that you provide, don’t assume other people will guess that you are a designer just by vising your uber-cool blog. Create something like this which will make them wanna hire you on the spot:

http://www.rleonardi.com/interactive-resume/

5.      Sell

This is a skillset most people lack. At least on the professional side, most of us don’t deal with the actual sale and even less than that- selling ourselves. But the ability to price your service, negotiate the price, bill and charge becomes critical when your income is determined by it.  

I realize that what I’m talking about is scary and required time to digest. I’ve made this transition myself, knowing full well it will not be easy. But I’ve done so freely, without any outside pressure. I wanted to prepare myself for the complex future which lay ahead, and I preferred doing it on my own terms and not being pushed into it. Sadly, this is a luxury not many people will enjoy in the future, so it’s best to do and practice what you can now, and be as ready as you can for the day you step out of the office carrying a brown cardboard box and wondering what you’re going to do next…

How to make better introductions

Introducing people is what I do on a daily basis. It’s an essential skill that supports your networking strategy. But it is also down to earth and tangible.

The math is simple- I know 1 guy and I know another guy. Apart their sum to me is two. Each is worth exactly one to me, and they contribute nothing to each other. Add them up and the number ascends to three and upwards, depending on the result of the engagement.

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Firstly by making the introduction I would make one or two of them happy and grateful. 

Secondly they can work things out and create some new venture which might benefit me in the future.

Lastly, They now have an incentive to introduce new people to me, which makes my network bigger and more influential. I’ve written in the past about the benefit of maintaining a large network of connections, and introductions are an integral part of the successful use of this network.

One amazing example is that I approached a guy I did not know for some professional advice via LinkedIn. I went to his place, sat for coffee and had a great talk. For the sake of easy tracking we’ll label him “A”. We kept corresponding and talking on the phone.

One day he introduced me via Email to another friend looking for a new position. I met the friend (labelled “B” from now) and promised to help him in finding a new position. I didn’t had any concrete lead but I was certain that one will introduce itself soon.  In the meantime, a partner in a venture capital firm I knew briefly (a true “loose” connection- we’ve met here in there when I was working for one of his portfolio companies) introduced me to third guy who needed some marketing advise. I met that guy (his actual name was indeed Guy, but let’s tag him as “D”) and dispensed some advice. I did notice that he was working at a startup with an amazing potential which really needed an experienced business development leader. Following the meeting, I realized they could be a perfect fit to “B”. So I made an introduction (It was to “C’s Boss, the Startup CEO, whom I’ve met by then), he went over there, got the job and has been working there since.

Amazing.

3 very loose connections (4 if you count the VC guy), who created a job opportunity which would not have been filled in any other way. Needless to say everyone is happy with the outcome, and at least 2 of these people are now very grateful to me- “A” who’s asked my help and “B” who got a perfect job due to “A” hustling.

But this whole affair would not have materialized without everyone involved receiving and acting upon well thought after introductions.  I will now provide some tips for email introductions, which in my experience in the most effective means of introducing two people (I will explore the reasons for this in a separate post. Suffice to say that Email is longer lasting, easier to retrieve and store, contains all the information and is non- intrusive).

1.      Understand why you are making this introduction

Usually one side will ask you to make the intro to the other, sometimes you will identify a good match which just “needs to happen”. Make sure you understand the motive behind the approach and that it suits your goals and overall strategy. I tend to help anyone looking for a job but less so for sales purposes.

2.      Provide the context
Explain to both sides who is the other person, what is he doing that is relevant and any other detail which will make their first interaction frictionless as possible. Full description of one’s academic history is not required, as well and the history you have with that person. It is sufficient to write” please meet X, CEO of startup V. I’ve been working with him for a while and he could really use a great marketing person such as yourself.

3.      Explain why you think there’s a match

If you think there’s business synergy- say. If you think there’s a great employment match, say it. If you think these two need to get together because they are like-minded and will enjoy each other’s company- say it.

4.      Provide the contact details, including phone numbers
Ok- this one took me years to perfect, and I think it the difference between a good and a great introduction. At the end of the email, juts add the name and cellphone number of each person. This allows them to simply follow up with a call (remember, they have been properly introduced by you) and saves at least 2 additional futile emails:” Hi “T”, how are you? My phone number is XXX, what yours?” and vice versa).

5.      Conclude the compensation you are expecting to get BEFORE making the introduction.
Ok, some people will be angry with me now, but I’m juts going to say it. If you expect something back for making the introduction, it is sooooo much better to discuss and determine it BEFORE actually making the introduction. Otherwise you’re opening an array of possibilities, all of which would be less friendly and potentially devastating to your relations with the people you’ve introduce to. I don’t expect anything in return for helping someone find a job. Maybe a beer or lunch, but that’s up to them. I do expect something if a company asks my help in finding the perfect candidate. Same goes for friends- If I introduce 2 friends from different circles, I don’t expect anything concrete in return if they hit it off. But if a commercial company benefits from my introduction, I’d like to be compensated for my know how and efforts. This could be anything from a 3% commission on a mere “intro” to a potential customer, to a much more substantial amount or promise for future role in the engagement. All depending on the conditions and all concluded before I hit “send”. This is not me being a wise businessman, this is me learning from my mistakes….

But even if you don’t make any tangible profit from the introduction, you’ve certainly benefited from it-  You establish yourself as a great networker, a person who’s willing to help and an overall great guy. People remember this and when the time comes to call in a favor they won’t hesitate to help you in return.