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Welcome to Futureforth

We are a social media strategy, digital marketing consultancy in Nashville. Our goal is to teach you inbound marketing, social media best practices, and everything you need to succeed with content marketing including your blog, email newsletter, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other favorite social networking platforms. 

Don't have the time to produce content? We can help with that too. 

The Futureforth Blog

Helpful tips and articles about social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking. 

Secrets to Breaking the Ice

Dave Delaney

10 Must Know Conference Networking Tips. Free download here.

10 Must Know Conference Networking Tips. Free download here.

Networking at conferences is not always easy. Have you ever arrived at a networking event or conference alone? It can be daunting to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. What do you talk about? How can you break the ice?

The first step to meeting new people at a conference or networking event is to understand that you are not alone in being alone. Look around the room and note the other people who are standing by themselves, too. This is your opportunity to ease the tension by introducing yourself.

The badges are your invites

If there is one thing every attendee has in common at a conference, it is that they are wearing a badge. That lanyard is your invitation to approach and introduce yourself. Every person wearing one has likely already experienced something similar to you, like perusing the exhibit hall, eating the lunch buffet or attending a keynote presentation.

Use the person's name from their badge when you introduce yourself. Shake their hand and look them in the eye. Your smile and use of their name will be most welcomed. If they have an unusual name, ask how they pronounce it and then repeat it multiple times to help you remember it and to earn their respect.

Triangulation

Kio Stark, author of "When Strangers Meet," uses the term "triangulation" to define finding a common point of interest to discuss. For example, if you are meeting someone exiting the lecture area, you can ask her what she thought of the keynote speaker. If you are leaving the leaving the lunch buffet, you can ask her what she thought of the salmon.

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Picture a triangle. You are on one point. The person you are speaking with is on the other point. And something you both have shared is the third point. This makes breaking the ice much easier. Look around the room for other ideas on something you can talk about, like a piece of art or a view from the window.

F.O.R.D.

As you speak with someone, consider the ice-breaking acronym F.O.R.D. Each letter represents a different topic you can discuss. F is for family, O is for occupation, R is for relaxation and recreation, and D is for dreams and aspirations.

I don't recommend necessarily asking these questions in order. Instead, begin by asking about their occupation since this is more of a general topic. You may learn that the person moved to a different city because their spouse has a new position there. This gets into the topic of family, where you can ask about children, how long they have been married and where they met their spouse.

You can follow up by asking them what they do for fun in their new city. This will lead the conversation into how the person relaxes or finds recreational activities on the weekends. And finally, you might get into talking about career goals and where they would like to retire to or what their summer travel plans are. I don't know about you, but when I think of travel and retirement, I definitely think of relaxation and recreation.

So the next time you arrive alone at a conference, remember that nobody goes to remain alone. People want to talk with you.

Break the ice, ask the questions, listen carefully to their answers, and remember to ask for a business card if you enjoy the conversation. Don't forget to follow up when you return to the office. Following up is the second most important step in networking after showing up.

For more conference networking tips visit: 10tips.networkingfornicepeople.com.

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Disrupt or Be Disrupted

Dave Delaney

I have been working in social media marketing for more than ten years. I have worked in marketing, promotions and communications for nearly twenty. When I learn new things about this industry, I can’t help but be inspired and excited.

This week, I had the good fortune of being invited as an attendee of a digital marketing conference in Nashville. Sprinklr, a social media management platform, held it’s first conference, Digital Transformation Summit (#unenterprise on Twitter).

95% of CEOs think going digital is critical, but only 25% have a digital strategy.

The lineup of impressive speakers included smart people like Cisco’s John Chambers, Altimeter’s Charlene Li, Twitter’s Chris Moody, and Sprinklr’s Ragy Thomas and Carlos Dominguez. There were also many breakout sessions with speakers from a wide variety of large brands and agencies. I loved the networking too but I'm partial to that.

I learned new things like, ninety-five percent of CEOs think going digital is critical, but only twenty-five percent actually have a digital strategy. That’s shocking to hear but also not a surprise based on my own experiences with many of my clients.

As a business leader, the important thing is to be constantly changing to grow your company. Technology adoption takes time it requires an evolution of both tool capabilities and human processes to be successful.

I learned that we should focus a little less on measuring what we have and instead concentrate on measuring what we need. I was also reminded that while content is king, context should be queen. As marketers we all need to stop and ask ourselves why we are creating a particular piece of content like a blog post or video.

"If you stay in silos and don’t disrupt yourself; you will be Ubered."

Another important takeaway from the summit is to consider how silos in your company can effect employee moral and customer outreach. I heard everything from tips on tearing down the silos to finding ways to at least build windows within those silos to improve communication.

John Chambers from Cisco was probably the most empowering of the speakers I saw. He said, “If you stay in silos and don’t disrupt yourself; you will be ubered.” That was the first time I had heard someone use Uber as a verb. It was a sobering realization for many of the attendees I spoke with after his impressive presentation.

It is essential to consider how your business is disrupting your industry. John Chambers said, “disrupt or be disrupted.” He told the audience that change makes us all uncomfortable, but not changing has much graver consequences. If you won’t make a bet on the future of your company, you have already determined your future.

Let's Chat

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This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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20 Ways to Become a Better Writer

Dave Delaney

20 Ways to Become a Better Writer

In order to build and grow your brand you must create content that people can discover. It is this content that will tell the reader more about you, your products and your services. We write articles, proposals, blog posts, emails, Facebook updates, tweets and more every day. We are all writers. We just need to get better. 

I decided to re-read Ann Handley's wonderful book, "Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content." Whether you are a scribbler or a scribe, a poet or an editor, there is something in Handley's book for all. The following are quotes from her book that will leave you inspired and ready to improve your own writing. 

20 writing tips from Ann Handley's "Everybody Writes".

  1. Write with economy and style and honest empathy for your reader.
  2. If you stripped your branding from all your properties and lined up your words alongside a competitor's, would you recognize yourself? Would you stand out?
  3. Whenever possible, specify geranium instead of flower.
  4. Utility x Inspiration x Empathy = Quality Content.
  5. Writing is a habit, not an art. Set aside time each day when you're freshest.
  6. Put the needs of your audience first.
  7. Every bit of content you create should be to please the customer or prospect — not your boss or client.
  8. Start with empathy. Continue with utility. Improve with analytics. Optimize with love.
  9. The first words of every sentence should make a friendly first impression to encourage the reader to keep going.
  10. The primary idea — the important words — should be placed at the beginning.
  11.  Anything you write should always be aligned with a larger (business or marketing) goal — even an individual blog post.
  12. Reframe the idea to relate it to your readers.
  13. The more personal you are, the more universal you become.
  14. Write to one person.
  15. If you get stuck, think about what's sticking. Do you need more research? More examples? Another point?
  16. Good writing serves the reader, not the writer. It isn't self-indulgent. Good writing anticipates the questions that readers might have as they're reading a piece, and it answers them.
  17. Empathy for the customer experience should be at the root of all of your content.
  18. Start by getting to know your customers.
  19. No one will ever complain that you've made things too simple to understand.
  20. Don't tell me who you are — tell me why you matter to me.

Writing is a wonderful way to share what you know with important people around you. Become a better writer this year by reading Ann Handley's "Everybody Writes." I have already picked up a few new tips to use for my writing; I know you will, too.

And now I am off to the store to pick up some geraniums for my wife.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper

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10 Years on LinkedIn

Dave Delaney

10 years on LinkedIn

Did you know today is the iPhone's tenth birthday? I'm celebrating my own ten-year milestone today too. 10 years on Linkedin! It's not much of a celebration really, it's not like LinkedIn noticed. I have all of my first dates on my calendar to remind me. I will celebrate my first post on Facebook on January 22, and my first tweet on Twitter on February 18th (both were parenting related). Both dates will also be ten-year anniversaries. I wonder if Facebook or Twitter will remember.

My relationship with LinkedIn has been good. I had a wonderful time as a keynote speaker when LinkedIn had the LinkedIn Live Conference in Nashville. I also advised Refresh, a company that was later acquired by LinkedIn. Both are LinkedIn-related milestones I am proud of.

LinkedIn Recommendations and Profile Optimizations

One of my main uses of LinkedIn is to give and receive recommendations. I always ask for one from my speaking and consulting clients. This is how I have accrued nearly eighty recommendations over my ten years on the professional social network.

I believe recommendations are one of the most important parts of a profile because they add social proof. If you want to get more recommendations you should check out my article, What You Need To Know About LinkedIn Recommendations.

I also put together a guide to help you optimize your profile to get the most return from your time spend on LinkedIn. Download your copy of "10 LinkedIn Profile Optimization Tips" here.

How long have you been using LinkedIn? What do you enjoy most about it?

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Tis the Season to Connect!

Dave Delaney

8 Holidays Networking Tips

The holiday season is the best time to get out to local networking events to meet new people and see old friends. Get started by reviewing your inbox (and spam folders) for invites you might have missed. Follow this by checking Facebook facebook.com/events for invites and ideas. RSVP and get out there.

8 Holiday Networking Tips

1. Smiles are contagious. Even if you are nervous, your smile will tell people you are friendly and happy to meet new people.  

2. Be nice. Avoid gossip or trashing talking anyone. Look for ways you can help the people you meet. Maybe you can provide an introduction during the event you are attending.

3. Set goals. Think about why you are attending the event. You aren't just attending for the free h'orderves and cocktails. What do you hope to gain by attending? Who do you wish to meet? What would you like the outcome to be?

4. Avoid too many h'orderves and cocktails. This is pretty obvious, but we all know that guy who misses the memo each year. Should you have one too many take a cab or Uber home. Better yet… don't drive to the event in the first place.  

5. Talk to strangers. Get away from the usual crowd to meet new people. The people standing alone don't wish to be alone. If they wanted to be alone they would have stayed home. Go introduce yourself and ask them what brings them to the event. 

6.  Ask questions and listen. When you ask someone a question, be sure to look them in the eyes as they are answering. Make them feel like they are the only person in the room. Ask a follow-up question like, "How did that make you feel?" or "What happened next?"

7.  Don't be a Las Vegas blackjack dealer with your business cards. Ask for someone's business card after you have talked and a connection has been made. Just because you asked where the bathroom is, is not an opportunity to ask for a card. Save some trees by refraining from handing out your cards, unless you are asked for one. Someone else's card is far more valuable because you have their information to follow-up. Otherwise, you are left hoping they follow-up with you.

8.  Follow up. I wrote a post here recently about the importance of following up. Following up is the second most important part of networking after showing up. The longer you leave it, the less likely you will reconnect with the person. This is a wasted opportunity to help them and build a new relationship.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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Are You Missing The Second Most Important Step In Networking?

Dave Delaney

What is the second most important step in networking?

In my book, New Business Networking, I remind my readers how showing up is the most important part of professional networking. When you don't take the time to attend the event you miss out. You have to brush off the fear and excuses and get out to meet new people. If you aren't meeting new people you aren't networking effectively.

The second most important step in networking is the follow-up. I'm willing to bet there is a pile of business cards on your desk that you have been neglecting since the last event you attended. Am I right?  

In order to get the most return on your time spent networking you must follow up. When I speak with colleagues about this step they often admit they skip it. Here are some ways to improve your follow up.

Follow-up while you are fresh.

After every conference or networking event allocate time to following up. Set fifteen minutes on your calendar per day to email the people you met. Doing so as soon as possible will help the recipient remember you. The longer you leave it, the less fresh you are in their minds.

Jar their memory.

Attendees at my networking workshops know they must take notes on business cards to help them remember how they should follow-up. When they write that email, they refer back to the note, so they can jar the recipient's memory on what they talked about. For example, perhaps they spoke about a recent hockey game. The sender can include a link to a related story or video from YouTube. This will help the recipient remember them.

Include a call to action.

When you follow-up think of a call to action. What do you want the recipient to do after your email? I like to write a summary blog post about my experiences at a conference. I include the link to the blog post in my follow-up. Perhaps you took photos at the event. You could upload the images to your Facebook page and send a link to the album. This will get the recipient one step closer to liking your page or visiting your blog. Another call to action is an invitation to speak over the phone, or meet for a "no agenda" coffee. Always put yourself in the recipient's shoes when answering the question, "What's in it for me?"

Connect on LinkedIn.

I am a big fan of LinkedIn because it is the most powerful social network for professional networking. Instead of sending the recipient a connection request right away, use email to let them know. Not everyone checks LinkedIn frequently. Mention in your follow-up email that you are going to send them a connection request on LinkedIn, so you can offer an introduction to someone in your network (should they need it). This offers value to the recipient. In your subsequent LinkedIn connection request remind the person how you met, so they are more likely to accept your request.

Following up is a crucial part of networking that is too often overlooked or ignored. Become a better networker by following these steps. Read on for more tips about networking.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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5 Must-Know Blog Post Ideas For Your Business

Dave Delaney

When it comes to building our businesses online a blog is an essential tool. Your company blog earns organic (unpaid) traffic from search engines. You can use it to network with your customers, potential customers, employees, and industry peers. Blogging for business helps to promote your products, services, and culture. Consider your site as your brochure and your blog as your business' heart and soul.

The trouble with blogging for business is you can easily run out of ideas for new topics to write about. The following are five ideas (and a bonus item) for blog posts that will help inspire you to keep hitting the publish button.

1. Ask your customer service department for the most common questions they receive.

Your customer service department is on the front lines of your business. They are the first to receive and answers calls and emails from your customers. By asking them for the most common questions, you will be inspired to answer them in blog posts. Not only does this help you create new content, but your customer service team can then point customers to the blog post for further help.

2. Subscribe to industry blogs and trade journals. Write an opinion post about a new trend in your industry.

A quick Google search will help you discover industry specific publication websites. These sites typically have blogs of their own with an array of different content related to your field. Write a blog post sharing your opinion about a story. Be sure to link back to the original post. Bonus points if you take the time to include the author's Twitter handle, so they will see your post. I also recommend tagging the publication on Facebook when you share your blog post on your Facebook Page.

3. Feature your favorite customers or partners.

Use your blog post to shine the light on your biggest fans. Ask them for their own advice about using your products or services and include it in a blog post. Ask them for a photo and how they wish their name be credited in the post. Be sure to follow up and send them a link when the blog post is live, so they may promote it to their friends and colleagues too.

4. Search YouTube.

YouTube is still the second most popular search engine. Pop on and do a search for industry terms or experts. Watch a presentation or documentary video and share it in a blog post. Use the embed code from the video to display it within the post, so readers can click play and not leave your blog to view it. Don't forget to let the presenter or brands know you wrote about them on your blog.

5. The Mini Book Report

Be diligent about taking notes as you read your next non-fiction book. Write a mini book report blog post that includes the key things you learned reading it. Don't give everything away, but use the post to help promote the book. Link back to the author's page and be sure to let them know you wrote the blog post.

So often we rush from post to post without letting people know we wrote about them. Directly reaching out to a person featured in your blog post can lead to a new relationship. They may even share your blog post with their own friends, fans, and followers driving organic traffic back to your site.

According to Blogher, eighty-one percent of US online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. A study from InsideView found that business to business marketers who use blogs generate sixty-seven percent more leads than those that do not. If you aren't blogging yet, or if your blog has run out of juice, it's time to get it back up and running.

Something for you.

I have a five-step, super-secret blog strategy that I share with my clients. I've made it available to you here: supersecret.futureforth.com.

 

This article was originally published in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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What You Need To Know About LinkedIn Recommendations

Dave Delaney

LinkedIn Recommendation Secrets

I recently received a LinkedIn message from a friend, who wanted to know how I have received 70 recommendations on LinkedIn. Recommendations are an essential part of your profile because would-be clients or employers want to learn more about you before working with you.

The following is my strategy for growing the number of LinkedIn recommendations on your profile.

When I complete a speaking event, training workshop or client engagement, I always ask for a LinkedIn recommendation. If you want to improve your LinkedIn profile, you must add recommendations. This is how I do it.

5 Steps to Rocking LinkedIn Recommendations

Step 1. Ask your client for a LinkedIn recommendation via email. Do so this way because not everyone uses LinkedIn regularly, so they may not see your request. Don't be presumptuous — ask them to do so only if they are totally satisfied with your work.

Step 2. When they agree to leave you one, request the recommendation using LinkedIn. Be sure to assign the recommendation request to the correct company where you currently work.

Step 3. Wait. Be patient. Give your client time to submit their recommendation. If you do not receive one in a couple of weeks, it is fine to follow up to remind them via email.

Step 4. When the recommendation has been submitted you can choose to make it appear on your profile. Be sure to activate the "Notify your network?" button, so the recommendation may appear on the feeds of your connections. Share this on your profile. You can also share a link to your recommendations by adding "#recommendations" to the url like: www.linkedin.com/in/davedelaney/#recommendations.

Step 5. Send a thank-you email. It takes time to think of kind words to compose. Be sure to thank your client. A written card is even better.

Bonus tip. If you have a testimonials page on your site, consider copying and pasting their recommendation to your page. Include their name, title, headshot and link it to their LinkedIn profile. You can see how I have done so here: futureforth.com/testimonials.

For every recommendation you receive, try to write two (or more) for people in your own network. Review your recent emails, messages, and social network interactions to find people whose work you respect. Whether you believe in karma or not, what goes around does come around. In networking it is always best to help others, so do so with a few LinkedIn recommendations today.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

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Psst, Blog Strategy Ahead...

Dave Delaney

Super secret blogging strategy

Psst, want to hear a secret? I have come up with a blogging strategy for businesses who wish to connect with their local communities. This is a simple way you can use your blog to network with fellow small business owners. Using this technique will also promote your people, which is essential in employee retention and growing a sound company culture. 

How does this sound to you?

Are you ready to have my secret strategy revealed? There is no cost to you. All you need is about twenty minutes. You can watch this video during your lunch break, in fact, I encourage it because it will leave you hungry. Ok, enough teasing from me. 

Check out my super secret five-step blog strategy

When you use this, please leave a comment. I would love to hear how it works for you.

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5 Must Know Marketing Copy Writing Tips

Dave Delaney

5 Must Know Marketing Copy Writing Tips

How often do you stop and consider the content you are producing for your business? Whether you are writing a blog post, newsletter, proposal, advertising or marketing copy, you can often get so busy you don't consider the main outcome you wish to achieve.

On September 16, the Tribe Conference will take place in Franklin, TN. It is a gathering of creative entrepreneurs who wish to get the attention their work deserves. Organizer, Jeff Goins, has produced an impressive line-up of speakers. I am excited to be among them.

While reviewing the line-up, I realized the speakers are all leaders in business communications. I reached out directly to share their insights with you about ways to improve your marketing content.

5 Expert Business Writing Tips

Jeff Goins Tribe Conference in Franklin Tennessee

 

1. "You must go to unreasonable lengths to deeply understand the problems, pains, fears and frustrations your readers face. Identify the pain — or need as they experience it — describe it to them in their own words, and give them valuable solutions even in your marketing materials. Think of marketing copy not as a way to sell, but a way to serve. Marketing should be something we do for people — not something we do to them." said Ray Edwards, founder and CEO, Ray Edwards International Inc.

2. "Keep it succinct, and give it some personality so it will be remembered." Pamela Wilson, executive vice president of educational content, Rainmaker Digital (Copyblogger).

3. "Know the audience you are writing for, ideally, personalize the target group as if you are speaking to a single person directly. If you don't know the people who will read your pitch, you have no idea of how to not just meet their expectations but to exceed them to the degree that they are willing to change their minds and take the actions you recommend. Empathize with the audience above all and your work will be potent. What is their biggest problem? How can your work help them fix it? What story can you tell that will take them from suspicion of your motives to interest in your prescriptions? Those three questions must be at the front of your mind as you craft every sentence of copy." Shawn Coyne, writer, editor, publisher, agent, Genre Managment Inc. and Black Irish Entertainment LLC. 

4. "Write authentically to your voice, representing your mission, with integrity, and always for the betterment of your community!" McKel Hill, dietitian, founder of Nutrition Stripped, Nutrition Stripped.

5. "If you have something to say, write like you speak. Don't try to sound smart, impressive, or academic. If you need help, get it. Don't be ashamed because you don't know the difference between an appositive, antecedent, or auxiliary verb (I don't know what they are). I'm dyslexic, have trouble spelling some of the most basic words, and I've written 6 books. Some aren't bad. A few have been on the NY Times, WSJ, USA Today, and Publisher's Weekly bestseller lists. So there's that." Michael Port, NYT, WSJ bestseller author of 6 books including Book Yourself Solid and Steal the Show, Heroic Public Speaking.

 I recommend you print out this post and return to these expert tips as you prepare your next marketing content. If you plan to attend the Tribe Conference, be sure to say hello. 

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