April 8, 2015 | Posted in:Brands and Bloggers Connect
Business partners Laura Mignott and Sara Walker-Santana officially launched their digital agency DigitalFlash five years ago. What originally started as a side project while they worked their full-time jobs grew to the point where they decided it was time to make the side project a full time one and go all in. “We grew very slowly and kept everything very lean–working out of coffee shops and hotel bars, having friends and family double as staff when needed, and all our work and files were stored in the cloud. We ran the business off our laptops and phones and focused heavily on business development.”
Today, they continue to grow their business, and they say it’s primarily by networking.
Laura Mignott, what kind of strategy have you and co-founder Sara Walker-Santana used to build the client base for your digital branding agency Digital Flash?
Our strategy has been research, in-person networking, and thought leadership. We have never cold-called potential clients. We often use social media and industry news to identify our targets and then seek them out at events. We have also used thought leadership panels as a way to build relationships with potential clients. Inviting people to speak on a panel is a great ice breaker.
How would you define networking and how do you start networking if you don’t have connections to begin with?
Networking can be anything from coffee with a colleague to attending a large-scale event. Networking is not easy, but it is essential to building your relationship Rolodex. If you haven’t networked before, the first thing you should do is find a listing of events around a topic you like or would like to learn more about. Make some basic business cards that have your name, email address, phone number, website, and social media information if you have it. Then take a friend with you.
What is the role of social media in networking and is it more efficient online vs. in person?
Social media is great for research or reaching out to potential customers, clients, partners, mentors, etc. But nothing beats the face-to-face connections you can get by meeting people in person. It’s not just about meeting someone once at an event; it’s grabbing a quick coffee or a drink with someone. It should not be to pitch but to have a quick knowledge exchange. You hear what they are doing and share what you’re doing. It’s building a relationship that is not just for today but for the future as well.
What are the best social platforms to use for networking?
LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram. All these tools help you to learn what people’s expertise and interests are.
Is there a “netiquette” when reaching out to people we don’t directly know?
Yes, don’t ask for something right away if you do not know the person. Just like you wouldn’t walk up to someone on the street and ask them to give you something, the same holds true for talking to people on social media. Ask for a few moments of time over email and then take it from there.
Give us an example of a networking opportunity that has worked out excellently for you or someone you know.
Our business is built on networking–literally. Sara and I met through networking. We were both on a committee for the women’s professional organization, AWNY (Advertising Women of New York), and we were put together to produce an event for the committee. We worked together for that project and shortly after to start DigitalFlash. Here we are five years later with a full-service agency, great clients, and a staff.
Can you give us an example of a failed networking experience and what you learned from it?
I wouldn’t say that there are networking opportunities that fail, but more that first impressions are still very important. I once went to an event and met someone who was way too rude about how amazing his company was. Cut to a few months later, he’s reaching out about wanting us to do a project. We politely declined because if you’re rude to me as a stranger, I do not want you as a client. The lesson here is that it’s a small world. Be nice to everyone.
If someone is not comfortable networking, any tips on ways to improve your networking skills?
Take a friend with you. When you go to an event, go towards the snacks/drinks section–it’s a great place to spark up a conversation. A good opening line is, “Hi, what brings you to this event?”
What is your go-to tip for people looking to network efficiently?
Network or starve. Look at it in stark contrast and networking doesn’t seem so bad. Also, don’t take it too seriously. If you are at event, everyone is there to network, so just take a deep breath and go for it.
Laura Mignott is a cofounder and managing partner of DigitalFlash, a New York-based digital experience agency. After obtaining a BA from NYU and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management, Laura segued into a successful career in advertising and marketing at top agencies including Hipcricket, Agent16, Agency.com and G2Interactive. Her proudest professional achievement is taking DigitalFlash from a meeting at Starbucks with cofounder and partner Sara Walker-Santana in 2009 to being Samsung’s exclusive rep at SXSW Interactive responsible for building, branding and managing the ever-popular SXSW Samsung Blogger Lounge. The DigitalFlash team caters to some of the world’s largest brands in a mega-competitive digital media market that includes social media, events and activations, and digital media marketing across platforms including mobile. Along with Samsung, a few of DigitalFlash’s other notable clients include Tagged, Caesar’s Entertainment, and SMAC. DigitalFlash represents established and up-and-coming brands with a mixture of real-world and social media savvy.
Coming Up: Ready4Air (Brands and Bloggers) How much should you give away for free during a coffee meeting?
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