Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Virtual Success

Yesterday we held the first LOCAL Virtual Tradeshow Event on Fast Pitch! as business people from around the Tampa Bay area (specifically Sarasota, FL) were provided with a custom tradeshow link that showcased only local members. The idea for the event was to create some structure around the popular Virtual Tradeshow feature by encouraging people to login at a specified day and time... and to really focus on making connections locally. Prior to this, the Virtual Tradeshow feature has been somewhat of a 'free for all' as people login all hours of the day from all over the world without a specific agenda.

By all accounts, the first localized event was a big success as over 100 people logged in to the customized Sarasota, FL Virtual Tradeshow page between 9:30 - 10:30 AM. At one point, there were over 70 concurrent conversations happening at once. Some power networkers later informed me that they had up to 5 conversations at the same time Try doing that at an in-person tradeshow! When it was all said and done...

We estimated that nearly 500 conversations took place in 1 hour

As most of you know, the intent of our Virtual Tradeshow feature is to give our users a more instantaneous way to communicate (i.e. network) with one another. Each members' profile serves as their 'tradeshow booth' by allowing other members the ability to quickly learn about what they have to offer. In many respects, a completed Fast Pitch! profile is a far more effective marketing piece than anything that might be placed on a traditional tradeshow table. Especially if the profile includes social media such as video, podcasts, press releases, blog articles, photos, and more...
Once someone has reviewed your profile and has an interest in communicating, they can initiate a CHAT using Instant Message or Two-Way Video (assuming they have a camera and microphone installed). Oftentimes, the initial conversation serves as an easy introduction which can ultimately lead to an in-person meeting in the future.

The advantages to the Virtual Tradeshow should be obvious: 1) Less Time 2) No Driving 3) No Event Fee 4) No Traffic 5) No Gas Expense 6) No Parking Fees 7) No Marketing Expenses, 8) No Need to Leave the Office, and so on...

Needless to say, we'll be organizing additional Local Virtual Tradeshows in the coming months in select test markets where Fast Pitch! has significant market penetration to ensure a quality turnout. In the meantime, make yourself more familiar with the power of the Virtual Tradeshow feature here: http://www.fastpitchnetworking.com/my_chat.cfm

Stay Tuned...


Bill

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Awesome Turnout!

Each month we like to host a free 'How To Use Fast Pitch!' webinar designed to help our members become more educated on the ins and outs of using Fast Pitch! The 30-minute demonstration walks everyone through navigating the site, popular features, best online networking practices, and more.


Over the past year we have facilitated about twenty of these webinars which on average, are attended by anywhere from 20 - 50 people at a time.

Yesterday, we tripled our average with a turnout of 100+ attendees!

By all accounts the webinar was a huge success as evidenced by the numerous comments we received via email following the event (below) and the large percentage of attendees who upgraded their membership shortly after the webinar.
To view upcoming webinars visit our 'How To' page: http://www.fastpitchnetworking.com/howto.cfm

Testimonials:
  • "The webinar was very worthwhile and eye opening. I look forward to reaping all of the benefits you described. Thanks!" - Barry Roberts, Speaker (Pennsylvania, USA)
  • "The webinar was very informative and I plan to use more of the features in the near future." - Holly Littlefield, Teltronics (Florida, USA)
  • "Thank you for a very insightful webinar. Very well done. It was informative and not boring which is unusual." - Donald Haines, Safety Video Warehouse (California)
  • "Today’s webinar was one of best I’ve sat through: clear, concise, highly relevant. The volume and technology were seamless." -Kathy Cabrera, Carabiner Communications (California, USA)
  • "Amazing webinar. I've been a member of Fast Pitch! for six months and was amazed at how much I did not know." -Pepe Mesones - Sun Trust Bank (Florida, USA)
  • "I enjoyed the event. Very well done. One of the best, actually." -Darcie Davis, Zephyr Strategy, Inc. (Virginia, USA)
  • "I have signed up with Fast Pitch! because of the presentation. I have also recommended friends and colleges to do the same." -Chris Wachowiak, Gemini Sun Records (California, USA)
  • "I really did not fully understand all of the features prior to the webinar. 30 minutes later I upgraded my membership. This was a great seminar." -Tricia Hoekwater, Ease and Grace Consulting (California, USA)
  • "Thank you for all the information. Boy it blew my mind. This account will never be cancelled." -Marge Carter, Carters Global (North Carolina, USA)

Good Luck!

Bill

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Just For Kicks...

Today I read a blog post about Facebook reaching 200 million users worldwide.  As part of the news, Facebook also released a 'heat map' showing their growth across various countries during the past 6 years.   The growth rate is impressive to say the least.

The heat map prompted me to run a quick query of our database to illustrate the current geographic breakdown of Fast Pitch! members across the United States (note:  about 20% of our members reside outside the U.S. but I was too lazy to run the query globally :).  Maybe next time...


Nothing groundbreaking here.  As you can see, many of the most populated states are very well represented. California and Florida are neck and neck at #1 and #2 which both lead New York by a few percentage points. Second tier includes Texas, Illinois, Ohio, etc.   To be honest, I was excited to see Arizona and Georgia so well represented... while a little surprised to see North Carolina and Missouri trailing others.

If nothing else, this map (illustration) gives our members a better understanding of the scope of our network.  Because a majority of our members are small business owners in service oriented industries (probably around 85%), my guess is this is very reflective of the nature of business happening in each of those states.

Needless to say, we have a lot of data about our users and can expand upon this map to include industy types, gender, company size, login frequency, the breadth of networking happening among each member across state lines, and more.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, ff you're doing business in one of the lightly shaded states... Spread the Word!

Good Luck.

Bill

Friday, April 03, 2009

At Least Make Eye Contact

Last week I took a much needed vacation with the family to San Francisco, CA.  As it turned out, the O'Reilly / Techweb Web 2.0 Expo was happening on the final day we were in SF, and because we were taking a red-eye back to Florida that evening at 11:00 PM, it gave me a chance to crash the party and spend all morning and afternoon to attend the Expo Hall, listen to Keynote Speakers, and well... network with thousands of people in attendance.

The event seemed very well organized and turnout seemed good given the current economic situation happening around the world (I just read a report that said the tech industry has seen a 45% drop in hiring... Ouch!).   As is with the case of most conferences, the speakers were in my opinion average... always talking at 35,000 feet about slick technology, platform interoperability, etc... but never really giving people what they need (i.e. specifics on how to make money).  But hey, this is a conference... and most of the people attending are there to get out of the office and have a good time.  So, it is what it is.
What was shocking to me... and maybe this is a sign of the times, maybe it's a West Coast thing, maybe it's the tech industry in general (i.e. introverts)... or a combination of... but, during the 'down time' when people had an opportunity to really sell themselves and their company (i.e. NETWORK)... they chose not to.  As I walked around trying to network with people it seemed as if almost everyone at the conference had their head down in their laptop, iPhone or Blackberry... Texting, Twittering, Emailing...  rarely ever taking the time to look up and make eye contact with other people around them (let alone actually having a conversation).  The experience seemed so 'empty'...
I was so taken aback by this that at one time I scanned the lobby just outside of the Expo Hall where there were about 1,000 people sitting at round tables furnished by the conference for the purpose of networking... and I estimated that maybe 10% were having conversations... while the other 90% were in their own world, pecking away.  That's 900 people who in my opinion, missed a huge opportunity to put their company and themselves on the map by simply looking up once in awhile and having a conversation or two which could lead to new business.  

What was happening on that little LCD screen that was so important that it couldn't wait until later that night or the next day?

Now, I understand that for many, the need to deal with day-to-day operations while out of the office is important (particularly small business owners who are juggling multiple tasks and managing people back at headquarters). I'm one of them!  I also understand the instant gratification that comes with communicating using technology... the feeling of accomplishment that comes with firing off email after email... and how it feels when someone wants to connect to you.  Heck, my entire business is at the forefront of this.  I get it.
But, I also understand that relying almost entirely on technology, social networks, and social media in general to communicate your message and form relationships is a direct path to failure.  Nothing can replace human interaction when it comes to being able to explain what you do, answering questions, and most importantly establishing trust.   Your goal should be to find a happy medium and combine the use of technology with good old fashioned networking.  

Let technology get you to the starting line. Use your personality to get you across the finish line.

In fact, part of the reason why Fast Pitch! has succeeded where thousands of other networks have failed is not so much because of our technology but because of the real-world networking events we did during the years leading up to our tansformation into an online business network.  Nearly 10,000 people around the country had interacted with company founders... shook our hands... had conversations, etc... All of which helped us establish trust, which in turned made these same people comfortable with referring us to their friends and so on...
So, the next time you attend a conference, make sure you look up once in a while...  or at least make eye contact.  Your next customer might be trying to talk to you.

Good Luck!

Bill