Do you work with that sales team?

September 4, 2019

Like it or not, whether you work for an agency or client-side marketing department – much of your success is out of your hands. In the “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” analogy, it’s your job to lure the horse to the water. But you are depending on the sales team to actually entice the horse to take a sip.

Unfortunately, you can’t just boss the sales team around, unless you’re their boss. But assuming you are just their peer or colleague, you’re going to have to be a little sneakier to help them hit their numbers.

Let’s look at some common mistakes that your sales team may be making and how you can help them over the hump to better sales.

Waiting for the prospects to come to them: No one likes a pushy salesperson so I understand the inclination to lay low until a prospect raises their hand and indicates that they are ready to buy. But the truth is that you need to be talking to them long before they reach for their wallet or purchase order.

What you’re probably already doing: You’re most likely piquing their interest by creating content that is helpful and relevant to them. You’re offering that content through digital display ads and once they visit your site, keeping in front of them with retargeting. Once they decide they’re ready to download your offer, you’re capturing their email address.

How to step it up: You need to settle in for the long haul. It may take years from the time a prospect trades you their email address for something useful until they’re ready to buy. You have to stay interesting no matter how long it takes.

Instead of just sending them your monthly newsletter that is all about you, your awards, your new sales, and your products – keep sending them more helpful content. Think of yourself as an educator and just keep teaching. But keep it interesting by creating a variety of pieces. Sure, you can offer them another white paper but after a while, they’ll get bored. Create case studies that focus on best practices, testimonials that offer insights into problems they’re probably facing and checklists that make their lives easier.

Your job is to keep helping in compelling ways until they’re ready to buy. No matter how long it takes.

Thinking everyone is the same: Much like some basketball players have a “go-to” shot that they always take under pressure, many salespeople develop a certain offer or pitch because it’s comfortable or because it’s worked in the past. Many times, that’s the right call but they also need to understand the nuances that make each potential customer a little different.

What you’re probably already doing: You might have built personas based on your knowledge of the clients you already serve and some assumptions you’ve drawn about your prospects. You might have even built your online editorial calendar in a way that hits all of your key personas on a consistent basis.

How to step it up: You need to dig a little deeper. Why not do an audience attitudinal segmentation study? Demographic segmentation establishes groups based on who people are — age, gender, income, occupation, etc. Behavioral segmentation establishes groups based on what people do — what they buy, where they click, how often they visit, etc. But attitudinal segmentation will tell you why they make the choices they make and what matters to them. Imagine how you could create different channels and offerings based on that kind of insight.

You and your sales team are forever intertwined so you might as well do all you can to help them hit the numbers that bring you all accolades and rewards!


From My Inbox

August 28, 2019

inboxI thought rather than do a deep dive into a specific topic, I would take this opportunity to answer some questions that you’ve sent in recently. Useful marketing information but served up snack-sized!

We’d like to have a much larger email list. Should we buy a list and start from there?

While there are few absolutes in marketing, buying an email list is rarely a smart strategy. The CAN-SPAM Act makes it pretty difficult to blindly market to someone who has not requested it or given you permission to send them something.

Even if CAN-SPAM wasn’t around, it’s still not a very effective way to build an audience. Think about how many unsolicited emails you receive every day. How many do you ever glance at, let alone actually read?

Everyone’s inbox is so crowded with junk, the SPAM filters are so much better and we’re all pretty good at triaging our emails at the speed of light – so the odds of you breaking through and actually making a meaningful connection are pretty slim.

Ideally, you’d grow your list by being interesting and offering value. If you’re helpful enough – you’ll draw a crowd. But if you absolutely need to jump-start your email list – do it with direct mail.

Yes, direct mail. The hottest “new” media around. With everyone shifting to digital communications, our mailboxes are much less crowded. A well-designed piece with a grabber of a headline can really work wonders. In your direct mail, offer the recipient something of value that they can download off your website. Require an email address and voila – your list is growing!

We’ve been doing an e-newsletter for about a year and we don’t seem to be gaining any traction. Can you look at a sample and give us your feedback?

Drew’s note: You don’t need to see the sample for these suggestions to be meaningful.

Here are some suggestions I would make to increase your e-newsletter’s effectiveness.

Actually publish it consistently, rather than hit or miss: Either do it or don’t do it. Inconsistency demonstrates your own opinion about the content and the value it provides. It should never be an optional activity. Remember, this is a tool for earning the trust of your potential customers. If you can’t honor your own deadlines, why would they think you’d honor theirs?

Less about you: On average, 80% of your content was about you. Your projects, your awards, your specials, and your people. Honestly – your audience doesn’t care that much about you. Create content that is useful to them in their lives and if you must talk about yourself – no more than 10-15% of any e-newsletter. And you should never be the lead story!

It’s not a novella: People aren’t going to read the equivalent of three pages of articles at one sitting. Cut back to 3-4 stories and don’t let any of them run longer than 500 words. Even that is too much, but it would be an improvement.

Be kind to their eyes: Remember, your audience is reading this on their computer, tablet or phone, so be gentle. Give them plenty of white space and make the copy concise. Use bullet points and visuals to make it easier to read.

Let me know if these tips were helpful to you and keep writing!


Low Tech but Effective

August 14, 2019

low techLooking for new customers?

In today’s 24/7 plugged-in world, we tend to focus on the digital marketing tactics that are all the rage. Social media, SEO, and content marketing seem to get top billing of late but don’t let all the hype distract you from some of the simpler, low tech tactics that have worked for decades.

Long before there was any mass media, advertising venues or even town criers – people relied on people they knew to steer them to the best establishments and buying experiences.

Word of mouth and referrals are as old as time and they’re as influential today as they were back then. In fact, as consumers are bombarded by more and more ads, the raves of a friend or colleague seem even more compelling.

Every business, even if you’re running at capacity right now, needs to have an active program to cultivate and earn new clients. No matter how good you are, a certain percentage of customers will always come and go, even if you’re doing an incredible job. So, you must always be adding new prospects to the sales funnel. While I have covered how to leverage your website to feed the funnel in the past, I’d like you to consider a more low tech option as well.

I want to suggest a weekly activity that should go on every business owner/leader’s To-Do list.

I want to warn you. You might read this and think, “well duh, Drew. Is that your big idea? Of course, we should be doing this.” But before you dismiss it as incredibly obvious or so basic that it’s stupid – ask yourself if you’re actually doing it. My guess is, the answer will be no. Which is why I’m writing about it.

Put together two lists. The first list should include all of your current clients that you actually like working with and would gladly welcome another client like them. The second list should be every past client (over the last five years) that you actually miss doing business with.

Starting with your current client list – start scheduling a breakfast, coffee, lunch, drink, etc. with each of them…so you have one meeting each week. Ideally, between the two lists (over time) you could fill a year’s worth of weekly appointments.

At this weekly meeting, your goal is two-fold. First, you want to genuinely let this person know that you and your team appreciate them and enjoy working with them. In the case of past clients, let them know that you miss working with them. Be sure you tell them specifically what makes them such a good client for your company. After all, you want them to help you find someone else with the same traits.

Your second goal is to ask for a referral. Tell your client/previous client that you’d like another client just like them and ask for their help. It’s amazing to me how eager our clients are to help us grow our business when we take the time to ask.

If you’re successful at booking a weekly meeting at least 40 weeks out of the year and if 25% those people can connect you to a new prospect or two, and you land half of them – that’s five new clients and 40 renewed and rejuvenated relationships.

Here are the upsides of this tactic:

  • New clients who match the profile of your best clients
  • Your existing clients will feel appreciated and some of them will buy more
  • Some of your previous customers will probably come back

Low tech, low risk, and huge rewards. Why wouldn’t you start your lists today?


Who generates the leads — marketing or sales?

February 3, 2019

CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, the world leader in improving sales performance through research, training, and technology, today announced the official release of its “2018-2019 Sales Performance Report.”

The study, based on a global survey of nearly 900 global sales leaders, looks at the four primary objectives driving performance improvement efforts over the next 12 months: improving lead generation, securing new accounts, expanding penetration into existing customers, and increasing win rates. The purpose of the annual report is to assess how sales organizations are performing against these core objectives.

The study includes a year-over-year comparison of sales performance along with an overview of what companies are doing in each of these four areas to drive success. “Even though the objectives of sales leaders haven’t changed – most continue to be focused on making their number while being effective with resources – it’s a mistake to assume their sales organizations have a permanent set of customers or a permanent suite of sales technology and resources.

These types of changes can either advance their organizations forward or leave them behind,” said Seleste Lunsford, chief research officer, CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group. “In an age of ceaseless change, sales performance improvements are a continual quest that should remain a constant priority for sales leaders. This is why it’s so critical to assess performance year-over-year to gauge opportunity for improvement.”

According to this year’s report, more companies are meeting revenue commitments, with the average revenue attainment rising to 93.9 percent to make this the third straight year of growth. However, the leading indicators of conversion rates – win rates and quota attainment – haven’t changed. Rather, 15 of 16 seller abilities included in the report show lower performance than they did five years ago.

Sales leaders managed to find a way to reach their goals, but it wasn’t necessarily through improving the performance of their salespeople. This presents a massive opportunity for global sales leaders, who can earn substantial gains by getting sales systems running more effectively. “Every year, we ask sales leaders for lessons learned. We want to understand what they would do differently to improve sales performance,” adds Lunsford. “To no one’s surprise, sales leaders aspire to transform the foundation of their sales systems. And yet, given the risks associated with making large-scale changes, many report a tendency towards incremental change.

This can be effective if such changes are implemented systemically. But often, we find this approach is too slow and limited in scope to help sales organization change fast enough to keep up with the markets.” The report provides actionable insight on how sales leaders can accelerate “sales transformation” through continuous improvements.

The overarching message is that sales transformation isn’t a project that will eventually reach completion — It’s a ceaseless evolution that feeds off data and uses technology as a driver, not an enabler. And, above all, it ensures every action an organization takes is in full alignment with the customer’s journey.

To download the study, click here.


Convenience is today’s currency

January 2, 2019

convenienceStep away from your marketing role for a moment and consider yourself as an average consumer. Think about how you make buying decisions today. For many people, price is still a significant consideration. But it’s certainly not the only one. Whether it’s true or not, we all feel time-starved. We’re trying to pack in a 40-50 hour work week on top of the time we want to spend with our family and friends, work out time, me time and oh yeah – sleep if we can fit it in. The fact that most of us get too little sleep tells us that the value of time in our lives is significant. If we could get more of it, we’d gladly take it. And that’s where convenience steps in.

There was no such thing as convenience as a product or service before the late 19th or early 20th century, when labor-saving marvels were introduced to the marketplace. My grandma never baked from an instant cake mix and when I was a kid, my parents had to use a travel agent to buy plane tickets. That all seems ludicrous to us today.

Amazon is the perfect example of this. Go to the store? Why would you do that when you simply say “Alexa, order laundry detergent” and depending on where you live in the US, it’s delivered right to your door today, or if you’re not in a major market, you might have to wait until tomorrow.

We talk about the importance of buying local, but the truth is, we will often choose convenience over anything else.

If convenience is the currency that buyers covet the most, then we need to be mindful, now putting our marketing hats back on, of how we do or don’t appeal to that need.

We worked with a client recently that sold products online. It took twelve clicks to purchase their best product. Sales were lagging because we’re wired by Amazon’s 1-click purchase convenience. We couldn’t get them down to a single click, but we were able to reduce the twelve to three and saw an immediate jump in sales.

What kind of friction does your marketing or sales process create for your buyers? Do they have to sign contracts in person? Do they have to wait for delivery? Are your customer service people only available during bankers hours?

For many businesses, the first point of friction is difficulty in getting the information the buyer needs early in their consideration process. Anytime the buyer thinks “is this worth it,” they’ve hit friction.

If your website’s bounce rate (check your Google Analytics) is high, that tells you that people are coming to your site looking for something they can’t find. Our attention span just keeps getting shorter so make sure your navigation is clear, and the ten questions you are asked most often are answered on your site.

Buyers want to do their early stage shopping without talking to a salesperson. Make sure you don’t lose them by not providing the information they need to move from consideration to purchase.

There are some other key friction points that you should focus on correcting:

  • Poorly trained or unenthused staff members
  • Rigid customer service policies
  • Inaccessible customer service reps
  • Negative or no reviews
  • Slow delivery of products/services

We are being trained by the Amazons and Ubers of the world. We barely think about needing something, and voila, they’ve delivered it. We don’t have to pull out a credit card or even type in our address. They’re almost always fully stocked and ready to serve us in an instant.

That’s who your competition is. That’s who is setting the bar that your customers are expecting you to scale. Think friction-free or think going out of business sale.


How to create a buyer persona

December 2, 2018

No matter what you do for a living, you have customers.  And odds are you want more of them.  But every customer is not equally valuable to your business.  And every potential customer out there does not want to buy what you sell or buy it from you.

One of the most glossed over aspect of marketing and sales in most organizations is the deep dive you should be doing to truly understand your best prospects.  The easiest way to do that is to think about the current customers you have and identify what common traits they share.

Once you have identified your best fit prospects — the people who you are most likely to delight over and over again — you need to take it one more step to help you personalize the audience and have a very tangible picture of who you’re talking to when you create content, thought leadership pieces and marketing messages.

The more real and three-dimensional these avatars or personas are, the more precise and on target your efforts will be and the more “native” it all feel to your audience.

Identify the key role that your persona should be modeled after.  It might be the Dean of Admissions or a business owner of a company that has between $5-$10 million in sales.  In some rare cases, you might need to create two personas, if you serve more than one core audience.  But remember, not more than two.  This isn’t an effort to describe ALL of your customers, just your best ones.

Here are some sample questions to get you started.  The right questions (a subset of these and some you may add) will be dictated by what you sell.  Answer these questions for your 1-2 avatars:

  • Demographics:
  • Gender:
  • Age range:
  • Educational level:
  • Typical degree or area of study:
  • Core values – what do they value the most personally and professionally?
  • Where does he/she work:
  • Job title:
  • Why did they choose this profession?  What do/did they love about it?
  • Who is their boss?
  • Do they have a team/staff?  Describe that structure.
  • What is he/she like at work?  How would his/her co-workers describe him/her?
  • What do they love about working with him/her?
  • What do they dislike about working with him/her?
  • How do they communicate when things are good?  How do they communicate under stress?
  • How are they being evaluated at work?  How does their boss define success for them?
  • What are his/her professional goals?
  • What is his/her biggest professional challenges?
  • What does he/she get excited about?
  • What do they want to do more of?
  • What does his/her typical day tend to look like? How do they feel about that?
  • What skills/qualities are necessary to do his/her job?
  • What tools and technology do they use to do their job?
  • How do they stay current in their own industry?
  • What’s the biggest threat to their job/company?
  • How are they different/unique from their peers?
  • What publications (on and off line) do they read?
  • What associations do they participate in?
  • What are the three most critical events for their industry?
  • Where do they live (house, condo, apartment)?
  • Do they have a significant other/family?
  • How do they spend their off hours?
  • List five personality traits they exhibit
  • How do they see themselves?

Once you’ve answered all of these questions about a target customer – create a narrative about them.  Think of it as telling their story.  Describe them in a way that anyone who works for you would be able to recognize them.

Give them a first name and find a stock photo that represents them.  I know it sounds strange but giving them a name and a face makes them even more three-dimensional and real to you and your sales team.

Once you’ve got all of that built out —  as you create marketing messages — keep this persona in mind.  Let’s say her name is Lucy.  Ask yourself — would this resonate with Lucy?  Would this catch Lucy’s eye?  Where would Lucy go to get this kind of information?

The more detailed and realistic your persona is — the stronger tool it will become for you.  Let your personas guide your language, channels, and key messages.  Now you’re using the right kind of bait to catch the kind of fish you prefer!





Do you ask better questions?

October 24, 2018

questionsGiven the amount of competition out there, the challenges of landing a new client and the struggles with keeping the clients you do have – I totally get the hunger to have the right answers. But, it’s not about the answers we provide, it’s about the questions we ask.

We want to think that after all, what our clients are paying us for is our expertise, our years of experience and our guidance. I want to suggest that while all of that is true – our expertise, experience, and guidance should show up in a different way.  The more we can put aside our cookie-cutter solutions and assumptions the better our questions will be.

And ultimately, that leads to better answers. As Voltaire was credited with saying, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

When we are meeting with a prospective new client, the sentence I love to hear more than any other is “I’ve never been asked that before.” That means I am adding value. I am taking them in a direction they haven’t been before or coming at their issue from a different perspective. And odds are, the closer I am to getting to the best answers.

In terms of marketing, we have evolved from a black and white world to a world of iterations. I don’t care how right your solution is for today, given the rapid rate of change in our world, it’s not going to be spot on forever. Some solutions, like a company’s brand and product promises, need to stand the test of time. But today, most of our marketing tactics have a shelf life. Customer behavior, needs, and expectations are a moving target and we have to keep up with them.

If you don’t feel like the quality of your questions is where you want it to be – how do you up your game?

It helps if you’re naturally curious. Is your brain wired to wonder? The very trait that I am sure drove my parents crazy when I was a kid is one of my God-given superpowers as a professional. If you’re not naturally curious, then practice the art of curiosity. Like anything, you can create a habit around curiosity. Beyond that, try some of these techniques:

Keep it open-ended: Try to keep the conversation going by asking questions that require a longer response than a yes or no. Certain words trigger definitive answers and actually add a bias into the question. Avoid using the words “should” or “would” when you formulate a question. Don’t start off with “do you think” because you’re giving them license not to actually think about their answer.

Follow the rule of three: This is a digging deeper technique. Ask at least three follow-up questions to your original question before you move onto the next topic. This will require you to listen carefully and not be ready to jump in with the next question. Especially in a business setting, the first layer of questioning has been asked and answered a million times. You want to go where most haven’t thought to dig.

Beware of assumptions: One of my favorite questions is “if we had to prove that was true, how would we go about it?” So often, we make assumptions along the way and start speaking them as if they’re the absolute truth. But we have no basis for that other than our opinion or it may be a long-held belief that no one questions anymore. Remember that even if it was true in the past, it does not necessarily mean it’s still accurate.

Better questions make our work more collaborative and more accurate in terms of actually finding the best solutions for our clients. So, fire up your curiosity and ratchet up your Q&A sessions.



A bird in the hand

April 18, 2018

bird in the handShort of your employees, there is no one more important to your business than your current customers. We give this incredible lip service but our actions suggest we don’t actually believe it. Think you’re different – check your marketing budget. What percentage of it is spent on your own bird in the hand – your existing clients?

There’s a level of excitement in chasing after and winning a new customer. I get it — the thrill of the hunt and all that. In many organizations, that’s where the emphasis and rewards are loaded so it makes sense that for many of us, it’s where we gravitate. But whether you own the business or are just responsible for it hitting its marketing and sales metrics – if you want to exceed the goals, focus on the people who have already demonstrated that they’re willing to give you money. It turns out they’re the most likely ones to give you even more.

Consider these facts from both a Forrester Research study and a Harvard Business Review research project:

  • Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers
  • A 2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect as cutting costs by 10 percent
  • A 5 percent reduction in client defection can increase profits by 25-125 percent (industry specific but seriously – 25% is the low end!)
  • On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their initial purchase
  • The cost of bringing a new customer to the same level of profitability as a lost one is up to 16 times more

As companies ramp up their business development efforts sometimes their best customers feel a little less special. After all, you’re investing all of your time and energy into catching someone else’s eye even though they’ve been loyal to you for some time. When I review an organization’s marketing plan, if their current customers appear at all, they’re almost always an afterthought or certainly occupy the smallest portion of the budget. Given their importance – that seems a bit off.

Here are some ways you can make those valuable clients feel valued.

Listen when they complain: Whether it’s in person, over the phone or on a review site, when your client airs an issue – listen and learn. It’s easy to dismiss a complaint as an aberration or someone having a bad day. Don’t make that mistake. Ask a couple questions. Acknowledge your mistakes if you see the truth in their feedback and ask for an opportunity to re-earn their trust. Make them feel heard.

Give them exclusivity: The more of your smarts and insights you share with the world at large, the more you should offer your clients something you don’t give to anyone else. Hold a client-only event, create a special ebook or do something like what we do at McLellan Marketing Group – create a holiday that honors them every year. MMG’s “Who Loves Ya Baby Day” is one of our favorite days of the year.

Ask for their opinions: Don’t wait for them to speak up. Regularly solicit their feedback on your product/services, how you service them, what else you might be able to offer them that would be valuable to them. Promise to report back what you learn from the inquiry and how you’re going to change because of the input. Then, make sure you do both. Show them you will respond and they will keep helping you get better.

Your current clients helped you get to the level of success you enjoy today. They’ve earned your loyalty and attention. Don’t overlook this bird in the hand.  Serve them well and they will help you create even more success down the road.


The Like Element

April 4, 2018

LikeWe’ve talked several times about the concept that no one buys anything until they know, like and trust the company who is doing the selling. If you aren’t on their radar screen, they can’t possibly know you exist. So marketing’s first job is to identify the right audience and put us in front of them on a consistent basis until we get noticed.

Of course, getting noticed isn’t enough. Once you have their attention, you need to do something remarkable, given how many people are trying to earn their attention. You have to be relevant. And not just once — but on a regular basis. You have to matter to them long before they understand that you can help them solve a problem or achieve a goal.

This week, I want to focus on that middle phase – the like element. Our likeability is completely within our control and yet, I don’t think most businesses or marketing/sales people consciously think about how they can earn that reaction from someone. We also probably don’t give enough thought to how we taint or damage that reaction without meaning to do so.

How do we increase our likeability?

Walk a mile in their shoes: The more you can demonstrate that you understand their struggles, worries, hopes, fears, and desires – the more you can connect with them. This, by the way, does not mean asking them the irritating questions that feel canned and insincere like, “what keeps you up at night?” It’s about truly understanding it because, as best as you can, you’ve put yourself in their place.

Actually be selfless: There’s nothing more annoying than someone pretending to care or help when really what they’re trying to do is figure out a way to get to your wallet. You need to help and serve because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will benefit you financially. Many of the people you help will never spend a dime with you. But some of them will. Enough of them will to make it worth your efforts and along the way; you’ll earn the reputation of being an organization that genuinely cares about the people it encounters.

Let it get personal: You know that sales technique where they teach you to notice pictures or mementos in someone’s office and then try to connect based on those? “Hey, you like golf too?” I am definitely not talking about that. I’m talking about letting people get to know you by sharing the other elements of your life. That might be connecting with business colleagues on Facebook or weaving some personal elements into your blog posts. But being personal is all about being human.

You’re always on stage: That said, be mindful of how you present yourself because who you are does matter. There are some topics that are polarizing by nature. I’m not saying you shouldn’t post about it on your social accounts, support them with your dollars or have a strong opinion. But recognize the cost of that choice.

Don’t shy away from your mistakes: Whether you have a business that is reviewed online or just had an unhappy client express themselves in public – it’s an opportunity to show that you take good care of your customers and are willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Owning and fixing that mistake in public is actually one of the best ways to boost your likeability. Perfection isn’t believable. They know you’re human and are going to mess up. They just want to know you’re going to do something about it when you do.

While this all seems like common sense, you and I both know plenty of examples of businesses that definitely do not live by these principles. Why not earn your prospect’s business for the long haul by being genuinely likable?


The best use of your time

February 7, 2018

timeNow that we are a month into 2018, are you still looking for ways you can kick-start your business successes, sales and marketing wins?  One of the best ways is by really being intentional about where you spend your time. I truly believe in Jim Rohn’s “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” philosophy and we’ll dig into that next week but for this week, I want to step out a little further and think about the events we attend.

When you think about it, for most of us, the most finite professional resource we have is time. So being smart about where we spend that resource just makes good business sense.

My mom always used the phrase “chat, chat, love your hat” to describe events where everyone air kissed or shook hands and then had conversations that stayed on the surface with people they didn’t know very well. Think the neighborhood barbeque or typical mixer events for business.

The truth is, for us professionally, there are a ton of “chat, chat, love your hat” kinds of events that are available to us as marketers, business owners, and business leaders. Some of them have an educational component, like a professional association monthly gathering with a speaker. Some are business development driven, like a networking event or rotary type gathering and others are really more of a see and be seen sort of opportunity. Every one of them can be valuable. But you also need to dole yourself out judiciously or else you won’t have enough time and energy to actually accomplish what you need to get done.

Like most marketing tactics, these events yield far better results if you do a little pre-planning. As you decide which ones to attend, ask yourself these questions:

What three things am I looking to walk away with from this event? This could be a new connection, new insights or spending time with someone you already know. But if you’re going to spend an hour or two, shouldn’t you know there’s something specific in it for you?

What can I offer the other attendees? How can you add value to the other people who attend the event? Have you recently read something that you can refer them to? If it’s an event or a gathering you know well, can you go out of your way to make introductions for the newcomers? Can you go and ask better questions that really get beyond the small talk?

Who can I take with me who would also benefit from the event? There’s something to be said about tag teaming these sorts of gatherings. Is it a mentoring situation? Could you bring someone who is new to the community? Or an old sage who hasn’t been as active lately and everyone would love to re-connect with?

Can I go and be completely present? Are you going to be distracted by your phone, texts, emails, or have something pressing on your mind? Can you leave your phone in your pocket and really tend to the people you meet, the content being presented and the opportunities that may present themselves? If not, maybe it’s not a good use of your time.

What’s your capacity to follow up? You always meet or re-connect with someone at these events. But ideally, that’s not the end — it’s just the beginning. Do you have time to reach back out and take the next step?

You’re going to have to pick and choose where you invest your time. When it comes to these sorts of events, be sure you choose wisely and make the most out of every time investment.