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        This article is posted here with the consent of the author. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position, view, or opinion of Crestron Electronics, Inc., or of any of its employees. Crestron Electronics is not responsible for, and does not verify the accuracy of, any of the information contained in this article.

        by Phillip Pini

        We all desire more opportunities and more business. Even before COVID-19, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) made business development challenging. GDPR is a legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information from individuals. These laws primarily apply to the European Union, but are also gaining traction in the U.S. and globally. So how do you market and promote to prospects safely and legally?
         
        It all starts with gathering contact information and usable data. Nothing beats the personal touch. Meeting someone for the very first time and exchanging business cards. Showrooms, networking events, trade shows, and meetings are the perfect opportunities to do this. But in the current climate, in-person visits and exchanging business cards isn’t happening. So, how do you make new contacts?
         
        Web conferencing is the new normal. Most people are now comfortable, and even expect, remote video meetings rather than in-person meetings. This trend has its advantages. You can schedule more meetings each day than ever before, and the digital nature of the communication makes it easier to meet GDPR requirements for follow up communication.
         
        The same preparation as a face-to-face meeting in an office is required. Be prepared and presentable. Have your camera enabled and a choose a suitable background. Check bandwidth and close any programs you do not want open. When running web conferencing applications, it is extremely important to close any other messaging platforms because they will pop up when you share your screen. Stay focused on the pre-shared agenda and mind the time allotted. We are very fortunate at Crestron that we have a plethora of resources available on multiple platforms, the main one being our own website. I typically use this rather than a PowerPoint™ style presentation to, firstly, offer up information, and also to demonstrate where these resources may be found for future reference.
         
        Following up after the meeting is critical. This should be done by sending a thank you email that not only includes any information and resources you promised, but also an “opt-in” message. Without a specific permission to send future emails, the company cannot communicate, market, or promote to this contact. Personal emails are permitted, but no communications through a CRM platform.
         
        Social media is another great starting place if you have a company or personal presence on the big-name platforms. There are best practices for posting on each platform, which should be followed. Posts that are relevant and optimized can generate engagement, which can lead to one-on-one communication through personal email or by scheduling a web-based meeting.
         
        Some best practices include posting files in the optimal size and format for viewing; videos should be easy to understand without audio (if audio is required, captions should be embedded in the video); the description should be compelling and use keywords upfront; use germane hashtags (5 – 9 is good); include your social handles and links to any articles or web pages referenced. Content that seems to perform best are installation photos and case studies, before and after pictures, custom UIs, behind the scenes, “How To” videos; and unboxing and demonstration videos.
         
        We did this in the UK with the launch of Crestron Home™ software back in October. We ran campaigns on social media platforms aimed at our partners, as well as end users. Both had fantastic results with lots of interest generated on the platform, which resulted in sales.
         
        Again, the follow up is the key. You must motivate people to follow you, friend you, or sign up for your social channels and opt-in for your emails and newsletters. Without express permission to communicate with an individual you cannot market, promote, or sell to them.
         
        So, how do you motivate someone to opt-in? Appropriate content; compelling descriptions; and authenticity. The objective is to build a relationship, as well as to present the information. I found it is all about honesty. You only have one opportunity at a first impression.
         
        Promoting online training and webinars is a very effective method to collect new contact information and to get existing contacts to opt-in online. Use paid social media posts if you want to attract new prospects. Be sure to target the appropriate audience for your virtual event. Paid social is very efficient, and you do not need a big budget. The larger or more targeted the audience, the more money the campaign will cost. The good news is that you are in total control and can run a campaign that fits your needs. Organic social posts or posts to Facebook® groups are effective ways to invite people you may already know, but do not have permission to email. Otherwise, personal communication (text, email, phone) is allowed. Send your personal contacts a registration link for the training or webinar.
         
        You will collect contact information for all registrants (not only attendees) with whom you can follow up. Remember to include links to your social channels and a check box to opt-in to receive email updates, promotions, and/or newsletters in your follow up email.
         
        To summarize, for remote meetings, training, and webinars, always be professional and smile before you dial. I was once given this advice, and it honestly makes a huge difference. Follow up is critical. Engage on social platforms, and always ask for permission to send emails and newsletters (digitally, not verbally). And please stay safe.
         

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