Expanding Your Network

Written by Philip Black

How to get out of your own sandbox to launch or accelerate your career

This fall, I gathered with 35 marketing professionals and students to participate in a panel discussion event alongside my peers Sarah Goebel and Paula Kapacinskas.

Titled “Expanding your network—How to get out of your own sandbox to launch or accelerate your career”, the discussion explored our personal networking experiences and perspectives. The Chicago AMA’s Michelle Batten and Pon Angara designed the panel to be the very first in a series of pop-up events that dig into specific areas of interest.

As we transitioned from a relaxed time of networking into our panel session, Pon opened up the floor, referring to our discussion as an exploration of “purposeful networking”. This struck a chord with me. I’ve found if you’re not purposeful with networking, it can easily become a drain on your time and energy instead of the valuable asset and practice it can be.

From the very onset we wanted this session to be an interactive experience. Michelle kicked off the discussion by having members of the audience introduce themselves, tell us their zodiac signs, and share their biggest phobia about networking. Let’s face it: if you’ve done any networking at all, you know it has its awkward moments. Why not get that out of the way up front?

As we went around the room, I was pleasantly surprised to see how diverse the gathering was. There were students and seasoned professionals ranging in ages 25-65. There were also multiple ethnicities and recent transplants to Chicago, including a few internationals. The conversation was lively from the get-go, and the attendees were engaged, funny, and thoughtful.

Here are my top five take-aways from the evening:

  1. Narrow and deep

Many of us spoke of forming meaningful personal connections in contrast to focusing on a set number of contacts made. Panelist Paula sets a low bar numerically so she can set a high standard for quality interactions. My personal objective in networking situations is to make a genuine connection with each new person I meet, even if I only have time to meet one or two people.

For me, it’s important that each person I meet feels valued. If you’re easily distracted like I am, challenge yourself to maintain eye contact throughout a conversation. A good way to show someone you’re listening (and that you care about what they have to say) is to ask a few questions based on information they’ve already shared with you.

By the way, you can’t fake this stuff. People can tell when you’re going through the motions. And people help people they like. Think about it: is there someone in your life that has helped you advance more than anyone else? I’d bet that their willingness to assist you has come out of a place of cultivated trust and relationship.


  • Try to make a meaningful connection with one or two people at your first event. Approach someone who is not with anyone, or look for a group with an odd number so you can engage easily
  • Start a conversation with open-ended questions (“What’s your story?” or “Where’s home for you?” or “What brings you here tonight?”) rather than jumping right to the rather obvious work question “What do you do?”
  • Comment on something that was said in a presentation, and ask the other person what they thought
  1. Something to give

You have a lot to offer. Regardless of whether you’re seeking employment or looking to help others advance, take stock of how you can be of assistance to those around you. Paula shared that while she is in-between jobs, volunteering has been a productive way for her to engage in the marketing community. Sarah, having recently moved to Chicago from Germany, was able to meet a mentor through some of her first AMA events.

Giving can be done effectively on a smaller scale. In his book “Give and Take”, author Adam Grant writes about the impact of doing ‘Five-minute favors’ for people. This applies well in a networking context. Once you’ve made a connection with someone, take a peek at his or her LinkedIn or Twitter profile. If they’re sharing content you find interesting, consider amplifying their efforts by re-sharing or commenting on social media. In doing so, you’re partnering with your connection in an activity they find valuable.

In my experience, this has helped me connect to important people and potential partners, including a well-known business author and TV personality. You just never know.


  • Shared interests and affinity-based networking is very effective. Consider the groups and communities you’re a part of, and causes you care about
  • Volunteering is a great way to expand your network and make long-lasting connections
  • Remember that social media can be a great secondary touch point to foster new relationships—and network during a presentation
  1. Naked and brave

Transparency in networking is powerful. It opens you up to help others and be helped. Panelists Paula and Sarah both shared their journeys to their next opportunities, and what the “in between” place has been like for them. I believe this cleared the air, giving people permission to be more honest about their current situation and drop the desire to appear self-sufficient. I was struck by one young man’s admission that he wanted to grow by learning how to interact more naturally with people he didn’t know. This was brave.

A year and a half ago, a friend and business colleague called me to check in. At the time, I was considering a new season in my work life. I was looking to make the move from being business owner to being a part of a larger team, interacting with larger clients and new challenges. As a 12-year entrepreneur, it was hard for me to divorce my identity from my business—and I felt very vulnerable.

This friend asked what was new in my world. Would he judge me? Would there be an awkward silence and “Oh, ok… that’s nice.” I took a gulp, then told him.

In the next breath, my friend said he had someone he wanted me to meet. A few weeks later, I met with that CEO, and within a month, I rolled up my business into Avenue’s and joined their leadership team.

Who knows what would have happened if I’d played it cool, like I “had it all together”, as if I knew where my next few steps were headed.


  • Just as you will be asking questions, you want to be ready to answer others’ questions for you. Make a list of 5–8 questions that you think others could ask. Then take a few minutes to prepare how you will respond
  • Being transparent doesn’t mean you should feel the need spill all your issues. This isn’t a counseling session
  • Try to find more experienced people who are willing to be mentors or supporters. For instance, Chicago AMA has a mentorship program, or consider your alumni program
  1. Tip of the iceberg

If you’re going to develop meaningful connections, you’ll need to put some time into it beyond the networking event or original meeting point. Then be sure to follow up with people after the event to advance a conversation. If you feel you had a great conversation, be sure to send a note over email within a week. You may also look them up on social media, invite them to connect on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter. Like dating, just don’t advance too quickly, or all at once.

I’m typically rather time-constrained, so I don’t take a one-size fits all approach here. With some contacts, there’s a heightened need or opportunity. So I look to arrange a call or in-person meeting in the next week or two. For others, a simple “nice to meet you” note will suffice. And there are those who I don’t want to invest time with right now, for instance providers with a service or product I don’t need. Those business cards just stay in my file. No action required.


  • Bring a pen and write notes on the business cards you receive. Date, event, location, a memorable note from your conversation. Follow up with an email note within a week
  • Set aside time to touch base with contacts you’ve met. You may want to enter calendar appointments or time-based reminders to help keep organized
  • Consider setting up a lightweight contact management tool to keep track of your contacts, conversations, and to-do items. I’m a fan of 37signals’ easy-to-use Highrise Their free plan is a great place for anyone to start
  1. Workout your digital presence

For professionals, LinkedIn is the single most important social media channel. (91% of B2B marketers use it) Before I meet or have a call with anyone, I look them up on LinkedIn. Same goes for anyone else I’ll be collaborating with on a project.

Take the time to complete your profile and get to “all-star” status. If you’re looking for a job, consider the keywords you’re using. Just think about the effort you put into your resume—except many more people will likely see it now.

To draw another parallel, let’s say you’re looking to meet someone on an online dating platform. Someone shows interest in you, but they have a rather incomplete profile with the bare minimum information. Think you’re going to meet with this creeper? Far less likely.

There are different perspectives on how LinkedIn can be used. I call this “open source vs closed system.”

Open source: Panelist Paula seeks to openly connect with people, unless it seems obvious they’re from completely outside of her loop. She takes an ‘aspirational view’ of her network—you never know who could be of help to you, or vice versa—so widening the circle is a good thing.

Closed system: On the other hand, my personal preference is that I typically do not link in with someone unless I have had a few interactions, or at least one in-depth conversation. I want to feel like I have an authentic human connection with someone before that is represented digitally. These authentic connections increase the value of my network and the value I can offer them. In the event I get a LinkedIn invitation from someone I don’t recognize, I respond with a short, friendly note to ask where or how we’ve interacted in the past. This isn’t to say I’m aloof or unapproachable, but that I’m simply being discerning about my professional network.

As for other social media platforms, there’s so much that I could say here, but I’ll limit it to what I’ve learned from my friend and previous client Margaret Molloy: think Linkedin plus one. In other words, use LinkedIn as your primary platform, then augment with one other platform.

For me, the ‘other platform’ is Twitter. In the context of networking, Twitter is a fantastic tool for interacting with other attendees during a speaking session. And unlike LinkedIn, I’m less reserved with people connecting with me on this channel.

For the Chicago AMA’s Michelle, it’s about her blog. Michael Cates, one of the attendees said it best: “… the most memorable part for me was Michelle sharing about her blog. I think knowing of people with outside-of-work identities are inspirational. It also validates some things I’ve been hearing lately about more consciously developing a digital presence.”


  • Having a LinkedIn profile strength of “all-star” and 500+ connections increase your chances of being found by a Hiring Manager/HR
  • From an international perspective, Sarah was surprised to learn how important LinkedIn was to networking and her job search. Since Chicago attracts people from all around the world, LinkedIn can be used to lay an important foundation
  • As you build your LinkedIn presence, be prepared to respond to requests from outside your network. Know when to ask questions, know when to yes—and no. Diplomacy is required


I’m honored to have been able to participate in this session and share a few learnings here. Stripping away the layers, fancy words, tools and tactics—we humans meet because we all desire community. Each of us has something we can give to those around us. Each of us has something someone else may need. When we gather in community, a large part of what we do is to exchange.

In our professional lives, ‘networking’ is simply the label we affix to this type of gathering. As in other areas of life, there are a variety of motives a person can have, with varying degrees of nobility. To be able to exchange well, it’s essential to know you have both parts of the equation—we each have needs and something to offer. The gathering of people for just such a purpose is a beautiful thing.

My encouragement for you? Think about networking in simple but powerful terms:

Develop authentic relationships with people. Do it all the time and in whatever venue you find yourself. And don’t do it for what you can get out of it.

Over the past fifteen years in the marketing and brand strategy world, every single career opportunity that I’ve had has come through trusted people in my network. I am fortunate—and thankful—for the relationships in my life.

About the author
Headshots-7_smallerPhilip Black has a 15-year track record of helping business leaders achieve their full potential in ways that yield tangible results — such as creating and establishing brands, developing employee and customer engagement programs, launching new products and attracting outside investment. At Avenue, a leading B2B marketing firm, he helps shape early-stage client strategy and map out business growth with new engagements.

Philip can be found online at:

Photo: Tommy Martinsen

Special thanks for our venue sponsor i.c. stars and our other guest panelists and event organizers:

Sarah Goebel

Paula Kapacinskas

Michelle Batten

Pon Angara

Proximity Marketing: Using Location Data to Improve Search Performance

Written by Annie Badeusz

Recap of presentation by Gib Olander, VP of Product at SIM Partners

In this session, Gib Olander, VP of Product at SIM Partners gave us knowledge on how and when consumers spend.  These days, most consumers are using their mobile devices to find a store location.  In addition to using mobile devices, consumers are searching and spending money within a few miles of their homes.  This creates an opportunity for marketers of enterprise-level brands with multiple store locations to maximize on the local search space.

In order for marketers to drive foot traffic into businesses, they must improve how their business ranks in an organic online search.  First, all store location information must be accurate.  This includes, name, address, and phone number.  After data is distributed to the proper data aggregators, marketers should create local store pages. With localized content, consumers can be targeted with coupons, store specials, offers, etc.   Finally, marketers can capitalize on the local space, by using social media.

In conclusion, using local data along with best SEO practices can help brands achieve higher rankings in organic searches, and ultimately increases foot traffic.

anniebadeuszWritten by Annie Badeusz, a graduate of Western Michigan University with a degree in Marketing.  Having a background working in multiple sales capacities, Annie has recently joined SIM Partners as a part of their sales team, supporting Business Development Directors.


Multichannel Response Techniques

Written by Caroline Bombart

Attendees Received tangible, actionable items that can improve the effectiveness of your multichannel campaigns.

Recap of presentation by Sheera Eby, Jacobs & Clevenger, “Multichannel Response Techniques”

Sheera Eby highlighted 6 attributes that span channels and should define every successful multichannel campaign:

  1. Apply Data to Target – Customize your communication and deliver relevancy.
  2. Use Offer / Incentive as Motivator – Be clear and create offers that prompt customers to act now
  3. Include a Call to Action – Ensure a perceived sense of urgency and state what you want customers to do
  4. Incorporate the Complete Story – Provide all the necessary information to generate a response now.
  5. Say Yes – Get your customers all the way to Yes.
  6. Test Everything- Test your target, your offer and your creative and apply your findings across all channels

Those proven techniques ensure that all marketing communications channels are optimized to produce the best results.

carolinebombartWritten by Caroline Bombart, the Marketing Director and Consultant for the Hinsdale-based IT Consulting and Management Group Techalliance. Caroline is a member and volunteer for the Chicago Chapter of the AMA and also serves on the Board of the European Marketing Association, in London.


The Big Idea: Customer Experience Mapping

Written by Judi Myers

Are you helping your customers tell their stories?

Recap of presentation by Jeremy Ages, Director, Strategy and Planning, The Marketing Store.”The Big Idea: Customer Experience Mapping”

The Marketing Store, one of the world’s largest independent brand activation agencies, recently conducted primary research to better understand the key behavioral and emotional drivers of loyalty. Jeremy Ages discussed key insights from that study and how they can apply to a deeper understanding of the overall customer journey.

For instance, far too often marketers think more about transactional behavior rather why a customer purchased their brand. More than half of consumers indicated that their loyalty to a brand is tied to how important that brand is part of their lifestyle.

Marketers need to think beyond transactions to create brand loyalists by making their brands relevant to each individual customer’s way of life. The way to do this is by sharing experiences through storytelling. It’s a key driver of a loyal brand-customer relationship and even more powerful than the traditional customer recommendation. Marketers need to ask how they are helping tell their customers’ stories and engaging those customers to share their stories with their friends, families, and other brand loyalists.

Jeremy also presented an overview of how to create a customer experience map for a brand and demonstrated how to use it to identify areas of opportunity that can play a critical role in how (and when) we as marketers should communicate.

The customer experience map is based on three levels of engagement across various touchpoints or communications:

  1. Doing
  2. Thinking
  3. Feeling

Marketers also need to come to terms with not everyone being loyal to their brand. We need to map out each customer’s journey and their experiences, focusing on consideration, ownership and repurchase behaviors. We can map out these milestones based on the following “Loyalty Mindsets:”

  • Trend Setter
  • Prestigious Loyalists
  • Quality Seekers
  • Nonshoppers
  • Deal Hunters
  • Dollar Stretchers

Customer experience mapping outlines the evolution of a customer’s relationship with a brand: From interactions around shared interests to willingness to share personally and introductions to friends. Getting customers to share their personal stories results in brand advocates. The key marketing strategy to support brand advocacy is in helping your customers tell and share their stories.

judimyersWritten by Judi Myers, Marketing Strategist, currently on assignment at Becker Professional Education in their healthcare business startup.

How to Use Data to Understand Your Customers and Grow the Bottom Line

Written by Steven Sonn

Recap of presentation by Brett Charobee, Director of CRM and Database Marketing at Redbox

Are you looking for more engaged customers that spend more and contribute to a healthy bottom line? Who isn’t, right? Brett Charobee, Director of CRM and Database Marketing at Redbox, laid out his blueprint for accomplishing these goals at his recent Momentum presentation titled: “Defining Your Best Customers and Predicting Engagement.”

Growth through personalization

For Redbox, Charobee explained that it all started with the strategy of creating a connected digital experience. They also realized that the communication channels they were using had a tremendous amount of untapped data that held valuable customer insights. Starting with email data, they set out to build a marketing data warehouse. From there, they developed a full customer relationship management (CRM) system was then populated with customer data from all channels. It wasn’t about collecting data for the sake of having it on hand, but to really to understand what their customers wanted, how they engaged (or didn’t) and what could be done to cultivate both heavy users and those that were ignoring the brand. These insights ultimately helped to contribute to dramatic growth at Redbox.

What to do with the data

Charobee offered the following recommendations on how to use data to help create engagement and drive revenue, based on what has been successful at Redbox:

  • Build your data warehouse to help personalize the customer experience.
  • Develop cross promotions and incentives.
  • Develop predicative modeling to better understand which strategies and tactics create engagement.
  • Be sure to include data from all communication channels, including mobile.
  • Move away from the mass marketing model to a personalization model based on consumer behavior. Redbox sends 36 million unique email versions on customer data! This has resulted in a 10 percent increase in incremental revenue.

In pursuit of the engaged customer

For all marketers, it comes down to understanding the customer and how they are engaging with the brand. Charobee pointed out that engaged customers spend more money. The 80/20 rule has proved true at Redbox (that 80 percent of revenue comes from the 20 percent of the most engaged customers). A brand that understands customers and responds is more relevant and has a better chance of growing its base of engaged customers.

Consider the following to help drive engagement levels:

  • Create and promote multiple touch points where the customer can engage with the brand, such as online communities, loyalty programs, social media, email and more.
  • Identify high value customers and seek to continue to cultivate those relationships.
  • Identify low engagement customers and create strategies to increase engagement and purchases.

Charobee’s presentation was a charge to all marketers to use the data available to them to their advantage. The evidence is clear at Redbox that harnessing the power of data to personalize the customer experience can yield big rewards.

stevesonnWritten by Steve Sonn, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Care Communications, Inc., a national consulting and outsourcing firm specializing in health information management.


Big Data Analytics and Social Media

Written by Paula Kapacinskas

Recap of  Presentation by Dr. Morten Middlefart, Founder, Social Quant, Inc. “Big Data Analytics and Social Media”

Combining his love of data with his love of all things adventure Dr. Morton Middlefart kept the audience engaged with his lively discussion of data. Dr. Morton showed us that the use of social media has taken away privacy. That your IT department has the data you need and the data you get from other data sources (think Google for example) could be taken away at any time. If you don’t analyze  your data to make decisions you will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. The human brain will be the bottleneck in processing big data.  Dr Morton suggests that all the information is like a stealth plane where the brain isn’t capable of making the decisions required to fly the plane, there are too many intricacies.

For a better understanding of big data: Dr. Morton recommends TED Talk  by Kevin Slavin “How Algorithms shape our world”.

What is the future? More big data! The key is to balance the human and computer side.

paulakapWritten by Paula Kapacinskas, Marketing Consultant, who helps small and medium sized business create strategic social media and marketing plans. She is a member of Chicago AMA where she serves as VP of Membership.

Key Highlights from DSW’s Omni Journal

Written by Imelda March

Recap of Keynote: DSW’s Omni Journal presented by Kelly Cook, CMO & EVP – DSW Inc.

“America’s favorite place for shoes.”

DSW is passionate about selling shoes to its consumers.

Kelly began her presentation by showing the audience images of brands and having participants position themselves to the area in the room in which those images resonated the most with them. This exercise proved to be a brilliant opener because it proved how emotional consumers are about brands.

She followed up by asking attendees what they liked and/or what emotions came about each of the brand images presented.

Getting consumers’ attention is getting difficult because content seems to come from all angles. DSW differentiates itself by concentrating on creative content that speaks to its members.

The company has collected an infinite amount of data from its customer base. They have withered down their data set to roughly ten categories. This segmentation allows the firm to provide their customers’ with credible and attention grabbing content. Men and women in the marketplace require different communication strategies. For the men, which are their fastest growing segment – they needed to create content that drove them to the store with a promise of a shopping experience that got them out of the door quickly. While the women enjoyed content that spoke more of the cuteness of the merchandise. Once at the store the female shopper enjoys visiting many isles as they make their shoe selections within the store.


It’s the excitement of being a shoe lover

  • DWS has 22.5 million loyalty members and the figure represents 92% of sales. Members often tout their ‘love excitement of being a shoe lover’ and the ‘rush of getting the shoe.’

Meet our customers/clustomers

  • Women of the house: “Shoe fanatics – Eat, sleep and breathe shoes.”
  • Man in the house: fastest growing segment and wants short shopping experience
  • Decisions are make split second decisions about purchasing shoes
  • Serve shoe lovers
  • Shoes are emotional
  • Be the brand to all shoe lovers
  • We want to be a proprietary brand

Stories of epic data

  1. Fun with pop culture and numbers
  2. Kid’s shoe test – stocking shoes at the stores since mom enjoys a one-stop shop approach
  3. Turn a bad into good
  4. Drive traffic with just the promise of fun
  5. Social: its about them not you
  6. Precision media in the new black (Book: Do you speak shoe lover?)
  7. Having the right talent

How to determine messages?

Macro brand stories become important because DSW wants all their customers to hear it. Examples of communication pieces are using language that resonates with each gender. Men want to hear about the craftsmanship of the shoe while the women want to know how pretty the shoe is.

Read more about the morning insights on Twitter at #CEBDGAP, and mark your calendars after visiting our UPCOMING EVENTS page.

imeldamarchWritten by Imelda March, who has more than 10 years of experience in marketing, communications and branding. She works as a brand specialist at a local agency is support of brand marketing plans. Additionally, she is a content producer for The Daily Peloton Cycling News, reporting on women’s cycling and other industry news. She holds an MBA and active with the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association with both the communication and membership teams. You can follow her @hcram1.

Connect w/Imelda: @hcram1 on Twitter and/or LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/imeldamarch


Apple iphone 7 and 7 Plus Features Price and Specifications

Apple is a multinational technology company headquartered in California. It is the most selling phone so far having the stylish designs with an Apple logo. The logo itself is fun, spirited and not intimidating and it is colorized to humanize the company. It sells a variety of computer accessories including Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple Tv, Apple Watch and many more electrical devices.

Recently Apple is rumored to boost the display resolution of its next iPhone models. Meanwhile, the iphone6s and the iPhone 6s plus sports resolution of 750 x 1334 and 1080 x 1920 pixels is currently available, but the Apple is also expected to launch the next iPhone7 and iPhone 7 Plus with more sports resolutions in the market.

Along with the new launch model, the Apple is also tipped to include a space black variant. Though the inclusion of space black variant was just a rumored alongside the removal of the space gray color option. Apple has sent out invitations for a special event on September 7 in San Francisco. Some of the features and specifications of the iphone7 and iphone7 plus given below.

 Although there’s no specific mention of the new galaxy s8 phone, Samsung has given a date: February 26, 2017. The image was first revealed on Twitter by user Ricciolo – a reliable source of Samsung leaks. Last year’s event saw a surprise appearance from Mark Zuckerberg as well as the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

iPhone 7 news, Features and its specifications :

  • The releasing date for iPhone7 is expected to be unveiled on September 7.
  • Most probably the new model will come up with major design changes.
  • Iphone7 and iphone7 plus will be having more storage space.
  • There will be darker space black variant color option.
  • New dual-camera system with 13mp primary camera and 8mp secondary having phase detection autofocus, dual LED flash, image recording, touch focus, face/smile detection, HDR( Photo/panorama) and simultaneous 4k video.
    32GB base storage, 256GB option
  • Available colors in Deep Blue, Space Gray, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold
  • Removal of 3.5mm audio jack on the next iPhone models.
  • Wireless charger

iPhone 6 is the most selling Smartphone of the year. And after the releasing date of the next iPhone model people are excited to buy the phone with a completely fresh design. Apparently, it has been reported that Apple was developing wireless earbuds but though it was rumored news still it’s unclear.But at least we are clear with one report, and that was about the image stabilization with 4.7inch, previously this feature was available only on the larger 5.5-inch iPhone models.

iphone 7 design

Isn’t it exciting to know about the next iPhone model? Finally, we can say that Apple is expected to make the next iPhone model with the most interesting features and designs. It has been surfacing around the world, and it is predicted that this premium device could be available Q4 of the year.

And I believe the phone will be slightly larger than its predecessors with ultra-advanced technology from the previous one. Talking about the screen size, yes, you are going to enjoy it with a bigger screen, unlike its predecessors, i.e., iphone6 and iphone6 plus. Therefore the new iPhone will be featuring 5.8 screen sizes with OLED display.

As we know that Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge can be charged wirelessly, this is pretty much convenient and appreciated huge by the customers. Then why Apple would lack behind its rival. This new feature is also available in the iphone7 and iphone7 plus for the customers to charge wirelessly. According to the rumors the company is making the iphone7 thinner as possible and also with more new changes. However, the above-mentioned article is based on the rumors.