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Guest Post: An entire marketing education in one sort-of easy lesson

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Karen Zapp, a fundraising and sales writer who is also a Marketing Mentor client, wrote in with a great success story we just had to share. It speaks to the importance not only of networking, but of expanding outside of your comfort zone, applying creative thinking to "uncreative" situations, and setting realistic expectations and goals for yourself–all in one learning experience. Read on…

Many of my clients are nonprofit organizations, so of course I attend conferences for that industry. At the end of January I attended the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Conference in Washington D.C. I picked up lots of ideas in the sessions which alone made the investment of my time and resources worthwhile.

But the BIG payoff came from networking. At the breakfast and lunch sessions I deliberately sat with people I didn’t know, and always in a different part of the room from one “meal” to another.  I wanted to be with new people at every opportunity. So at each of these sessions (4 total) I met people and have prospects I’m following up with.

I also paid the extra money to attend a special networking reception
one evening. I kept roaming the room and introducing myself. My focus
was on pre-qualifying people, taking time for them to get to know me
and be comfortable with me, and getting a few quality leads. I was

I found someone who can provide a service to one of my existing clients
that I don’t offer which I happily passed on to my client; I have 4
leads on potential work I’m following up on; and one of the other
vendors and I have since arranged to send each other articles for
posting on the resource pages of our websites with inbound links to
each other. Plus this big news: From one of the people I met here I’ve
already landed a paying assignment.  That happened in less than two

Finally, at the end of some of the teaching sessions when there was a
speaker from an organization or agency I wanted to write for, I went up
afterwards and introduced myself. Told them I’m a freelance writer and
I’d like to explore the possibility of working with them. Here I have
three more solid leads and I think I’ll have an assignment locked in
with one of them by the end of this week!

How did I do it? The conference ended on Friday. Normally I’d send an
email out (individual emails with a comment on something specific we
talked about; each communication is personalized), within 48 hours. But I didn’t want mine to be caught up in all the rest of their Monday
morning mail.  So I sent them Tuesday. Then I made an initial phone
follow-up and it’s been evolving from there.

Definitely worth my time!


So, to review:

  1. Network, network, network. Karen went to the DMA conference to learn, but she knew that at least as important was the opportunity to connect with people. Which she did, outstandingly, in lots of interesting ways.
  2. Expand outside of your comfort zone. Walking up to an expert after they’ve given a speech and introducing myself?!? Sitting down with people I don’t know?!? It’s an introvert’s nightmare!!! Maybe Karen is a natural extrovert, maybe not. The point is, to achieve different results, you need to do something different.
  3. Apply creative thinking always, and maybe especially, to "boring" stuff. Yeah. Sending out followup emails thrills me, too. So much so that I rarely think about it. Karen did, though, and came up with an idea–sending out email on a particular day, instead of reflexively–that netted her big returns.

Any other lessons I missed?


  • More in: Connecting, Guest Mixers, How to Get the Most from ______, Inspiring stories, Self-Promotion, Success Stories

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