Monthly Archives: December 2016

Know About Entrepreneurs Went from Welfare to Multi-Million Business in Five Years

Zaycon Fresh is an unusual business with an unusual story. Two brothers and their cousin, all on welfare after they fell on hard times during the recession, decided to start a business. Today, this business holds events throughout the country where they deliver proteins like chicken, bacon, salmon, steak and more in bulk to customers — directly from farmers — at value pricing.

After starting with a test event in 2009 that brought in revenue of $40,000, the company is on track to do $30 million for this fiscal year, it says.

I first heard about Zaycon Fresh from my husband, who has had a client relationship with the company. That’s how I was introduced to Zaycon’s CEO Mike Conrad. With no formal business background and no college degree, Conrad talks about the entrepreneurial lessons he learned from taking his circumstances and turning them into a major business opportunity.

Timing is everything.
For Zaycon, the third time was the charm, so to speak. Mike Conrad’s brother, J.C. — who was a co-founder and is no longer with the company — conceptualized the business when he was a meat manager for a supermarket. He did a proof-of-concept test to see if he could get customers to buy in bulk at discounted prices and it was a significant success.

He took that proof-of-concept and tried to launch the business himself in 2000, but was not successful. It wasn’t until after the Internet infrastructure was built up enough to support this event-based business — and he found partners in his brother and cousin, Adam Kremin — did this concept get legs as a standalone business.

Remember that even the best ideas may not be successful if launched at the wrong time.

Build your brand the hard way.
Building a business and a brand is difficult, so Conrad and his co-founders decided to start where they had support: with local churches. These institutions helped to spread the word about their premier Zaycon event and continue to be big supporters. The events are often held in church parking lots where there is often extra unused space. Plus, the church benefits from awareness in addition to a Zaycon donation of food.

After the success of the first event, Zaycon’s next endeavor was to engage coupon and deal-oriented bloggers. They reached out to 1,000 bloggers to see if they would be interested in reviewing the company’s product and approximately 450 responded yes. Since Zaycon delivers farm-fresh product, they wanted the experience to be authentic, so they rented a few trucks and hand delivered the 450 boxes of product to bloggers all across the country. This extra effort, while time-consuming, made a big impact. As these bloggers raved about Zaycon, they started adding thousands upon thousands of customers to their database. This was the catalyst for major growth.

Too many entrepreneurs want to do traditional marketing strategies from the get go, but sometimes, doing the high-labor-intensive, out-of-the-box efforts create the foundation that your business needs for growth.

Create the ‘right’ team.
To take the business from nothing to $30 million in sales, Conrad says was a true team effort. It was all about having the right people in the right places at the right time. While his brother was a co-founder, he ultimately felt he wasn’t suited for business growth and was bought out of the business.

Also, as the company grew, Conrad and his cousin knew that there many traditional business competencies that they didn’t possess. They sought advisors and hands-on investors who could help supplement those skill and knowledge deficiencies and bring the company to the next level.

Involve your customers.
You might not think that bulk meats is an enthusiast-driven business, but Zaycon proves that it can be. By involving the customers in everything from initial marketing — (new events are set when a core group of interested customers in a certain geographic area sign-up) — to creating a fun experience, the business gets extra mileage.

As Conrad said, “People wanted to be involved in your business. When they feel involved, they want to support you.” That has certainly been the case for Zaycon’s excited customer base, some of whom “volunteer” for free food at events and certainly create a community around Zaycon’s model that helps the company to build its business.

Create a defense with intellectual property.
While the price point and freshness are customer selling points of Zaycon’s model, their secret sauce is actually their logistics. They have invested heavily in creating software systems that help them manage the farm-to-customer logistics of food delivery and event production.

Conrad relates that while the business seems simple in concept, the logistics are very complicated, and their investment in logistics IP helps to create barriers to entry from competitors.

Be willing to change.
Conrad’s parting words are the ones that he thinks are maybe the most important for entrepreneurs. “Be malleable,” he said. “You have to adapt and change. There were at least four times when we thought that the business was dead, but we knew that was not an option. We couldn’t quit, we had to keep going.”

He also said that the willingness to change comes into play in terms of listening. “Always believe you are not the smartest guy in the room and let other people bring ideas to the table,” said Conrad. The path you start for your business — and often your endpoint as well — will change drastically as you build the company.

Zaycon Fresh continues to grow and prosper and will rely on their own history lessons to move them forward to the next level of success.

Steps to Turn Business Cards Into Business Relationships

Business cards that symbolize fabulous connections and conversations can easily transform into annoying reminders of lost opportunities. So how can you turn business cards into cash?

First, the most common mistake is failing to collect cards. Many people give out their cards but fail to collect from others. Politely insist on getting the potential contact’s information so that you can follow up with him or her. If he or she doesn’t have a business card (which is a rising trend), write down an email address so you can follow up afterward. You want the ball in your court so you have the capability to follow up. Don’t place the responsibility on the other person.

The second common mistake is failing to follow up at all. Intending to follow up won’t put money in your bank account.

To ease your follow-up efforts, have a system in place for the business cards. Personally, I don’t like paper. I prefer to turn someone’s contact information into a digital format as quickly as possible. There are many apps that take pictures of business cards, translate the text and add the information to your contact system. Snap a pic, recycle the card, and follow up. Quick and simple. I use Evernote for this.

Apps will also geotag the information so you can remember where you met. A simple option is to take a photo of the cards and email it to yourself or your virtual assistant. A low-tech option is to carry the cards until you get back to your office. If that’s your choice, be sure to have a specific place you put the cards. I’ve lost many valuable contacts to the abyss known as my purse.

Next, keep your connection engaged. The phrasing of your first follow up is as important as your first impression. Make sure you stand out and won’t be forgotten.

Avoid phrases such as, “I’m not sure if you remember me but we met at …” Starting that way puts you in a position of weakness.

Also, cut the word “just” from your follow up. Like, “I just wanted to say hi.”

“Justs” make your email (and you) inconsequential and ignorable.

To step up your follow up, be personal and interesting by mentioning something that you discussed at your initial meeting. Shared experiences, inside jokes or answers you found to their questions are great. Something conversational such as, “I love meeting a fellow Star Wars nerd!” keeps your email from seeming boilerplate.

Your top objective in following up is to get a response. I have one follow-up tip that, for me, has had a 100 percent response rate. It’s a bit outside the box and takes a little more work, but it’s worth it. Even the busiest people with celebrity-esque statuses have replied to this follow-up technique.

I create a personal video message for my new contact. It’s only a minute or two saying how it was great to meet them, mentioning something we shared in our conversation and offering next action steps. It’s short, sweet and effective. My contacts regularly say how cool the video messages are. They appreciate me taking the time to create them and talk to them “face to face.”

With video follow ups, you don’t have to remind people who you are. They see you, hear your voice and instantly remember you. Plus, you are creating a more human connection because your nonverbal communication shares more than text can. As a bonus, you can tell if and when your contact has watched your video. Video uploading services, including YouTube, have a number of views counter. I’ve had contacts watch my video messages a few times because they enjoyed them and shared them.

Your video messages don’t need to be highly produced. Just have good lighting and quality sound. I use a single lighting kit or natural sunlight for light. For sound, I use a Snowball microphone or simply my iPhone ear buds mic.

There are many video upload options. I use YouTube, set the privacy settings to hidden and share the video link in my follow-up email. Don’t upload the video directly into your email. The attachment will be too big and get captured by spam filters.

Lastly, expedite the scheduling process for your next meeting with your contact. One of the biggest time sucks in modern life is sending emails back and forth to schedule something. To bypass that annoyance, I recommend having an online calendar tool. I use Calendly.com. Your contact clicks a link and books a time. The system takes care of the rest.

My personal follow-up system includes a link for a video call with Zoom.us, and other services such as Skype work well. If you’re interested in keeping a stronger, more personal connection, then video calls are your best option. Your connection is enhanced when you see and hear the other person. Don’t discount this wonderful modern communication option that is readily at your finger tips.

Follow up is about personal connection. With these tips, you’ll be turning business cards into thriving business relationships.

How To Be An Awesome Networker at Conferences

Attending digital marketing conferences is a great way to stay up to date and learn new ways to improve your business. However, I find the networking opportunities to be of the greatest value. Last year I had the pleasure of speaking at MicroConf Europe and UnGagged and I made the effort to network, despite being an introvert.

I recently returned to the UnGagged London conference as a speaker this year and networking was at the top of my priorities list. Here is the blueprint that I follow to effectively network at conferences.

1. Create a list of prospects before the event.
You should have a list of people you want to connect with before even arriving at the conference location. This allows you to do a little preliminary research to prepare for potential encounters — things such as identifying mutual connections or interests can help break the ice and lead to a smooth introduction.

Every conference website will have a list of speakers and some will even feature journalists and members of the media that are scheduled to attend. Another way to locate attendees is to search Twitter for conference related hashtags. Having your networking targets identified in advance establishes a goal — you will network with more people this way rather than just wondering around aimlessly without a plan.

2. Stay at the event venue hotel.
You might be able to save a few dollars if you book a hotel down the street or across town, but you will miss out on so much valuable networking time. You aren’t going to make any introductions or engage in small talk during the actual presentations — that happens before and after.

Leave your room early in the morning and get ready to network. Stick around after the sessions to continue your networking crusade. If you are traveling back and forth from the conference venue and another hotel you miss some of the most valuable networking opportunities.

3. Attend all planned social events.
Some of the best connections are made at the hotel bar and during planned networking events — people are more laid back in a relaxed social setting. Mix in a few cocktails and guards are down, the vibe is welcoming and everyone is willing to mingle.

I can’t stress how much of a gold mine the hotel bar can be. You should make sure to hang out there in the evenings and during downtime — even if you aren’t a drinker. I have been introduced to many high profile connections and started several business relationships at hotel bars during conferences.

4. Practice selling yourself in under 30 seconds.
When you are introduced to someone you want to be able to tell them about who you are and what you do — but most people don’t have time, nor do they want to stand there and listen to you talk for several minutes.

Master a 30-second self-pitch. They key is to make it interesting without it sounding like an overly promotional sales pitch.

What do you do? Where are you from? What are two interesting and memorable facts about you? Use this information and create your introduction — make sure the individual that you introduce yourself to is going to have a clear picture of you. They won’t forget you because your introduction was both clever and memorable.

5. Be armed with business cards at all times.
You should have business cards on you at all times — keep some in your pocket and in your laptop bag. You should even keep some in your carry-on bag when you travel to conferences — airport lounges, rental car counters and baggage carousels all present networking opportunities prior to a big conference.

You don’t want to be the person that is just handing out business cards to anyone that will take one. I will initiate the business card exchange after an introduction if I want to connect with the person again after the conference. If not, I don’t offer my card.

I don’t network to collect business cards — I do it to make connections that are going to lead to a potential mutually beneficial business relationship.

6. Make eye contact, shake hands and be confident.
Remember one thing — you aren’t the only person that is going to be out networking. There are going to be some people that are on the radar of every attendee. First impressions are everything. Make sure you make eye contact with your target, smile, be pleasant, shake hands and emit confidence.

If you are shy, at least pretend you are having a good time and enjoying yourself.

7. Be a listener, not a bragger or boaster.
When starting a conversation with someone or joining in a group discussion make sure you don’t become the bragger or boaster. If you attend conferences regularly you know who I am referring to, as it never fails — there is always one person that wants to constantly tell everyone how great he or she is, and how their company is “crushing it.”

Show a genuine interest in everyone you are introduced to and listen to what they have to say. All rewarding business relationships are born when there is a genuine connection made — not a BS session followed by a business card exchange.

8. Follow up with everyone you met.
As soon as you get home from the conference, reach out to all of the connections you made while networking. Send out an email letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them and schedule a time to speak in more detail right away.

You are more likely to get them to commit to a phone call or meeting right after the conference than you would be if you reached out to them months or even weeks after. Get them to commit while your introduction is still a fairly recent memory.