Corrections or additions?
These articles by Bart Jackson and Michele Alperin were prepared
for the December 6, 2000 edition
of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Origins of Charisma: Mark Plante
Yuppies don’t have friends, as the saying goes. They
have contacts. Yet for Mark Plante, networker par excellence,
success depends on deftly blurring these two categories. He speaks
at two meetings this month. On Monday, December 11, at noon in the
Lawrenceville School, Plante will set forth his strategies on
"How to Network a Room" for a meeting of the Women In
of Mercer County. The meeting is open only to members and their
Call 609-883-8100 for membership information. Plante will also speak
to the Princeton Chamber Business Council on "Networking 101:
The Basics of Meeting People and Building Relationships," on
December 20, at 7:30 a.m. Cost: $21. Call 609-520-1776.
Plante’s credentials include six years as operations consultant for
Burger King. He was hired by the corporation to carry down the law
to local and district franchisers. Yet he also found that he needed
to help the franchisers meet with and make their wills known to the
upper-echelon corporate executives.
Today, as a motivational speaker, Plante lectures professionally
100 times a year. "I could speak every day," he notes,
I hate to travel." His entire advertising budget for this venture?
Zero. No Yellow Pages, no website — engagements are received
by networking and word of mouth. Why is it when Plante talks, people
"My system is basically quite simple," says Plante.
you can talk to anybody. We are all, in the end, human beings. The
same thing that inspires you to chat, will inspire that top potential
client." If you enter a room without a specific target, e.g. at
a convention cocktail party, you will want to scoop a broad array
of folk into your net. What works for Plante is the natural approach.
place, and people are most often in line. Folks in line are just
for a diversion — let it be you.
(name only) with an outstretched hand. Sounds hackneyed, but two
work here. First, claims Plante, "almost no one will refuse your
handshake and the few perfunctory words that accompany it."
you are just giving your name, not backing it with the profundity
of your corporate sponsorship. Also, you are leaving him open to
with the obvious query. Make him a bit curious about you.
questions that go straight for her primary interests: herself and
her career. Plante’s favorite is a three-question series that almost
invariably invokes a verbal essay: a) What line of work are you in?
If the convention makes that obvious, ask her position. b) How did
you get into that field? c) Sounds interesting. What would it take
for me — or my young nephew — to get into that field today?
At this point you’ve got your subject not merely talking, but giving
advice. Odds of her wanting to meet with you again are good.
have managed to get that first appointment, the attitude remains the
same, but the approach deepens.
to impress people with your knowledge than to show concern and the
importance you place on this meeting. Libraries may well keep
files on your target. Find out if he likes duck hunting. Also find
out some good news about the firm’s earnings. Finally, arm yourself
with some rare tidbit about the firm that indicates a fascination
with the business.
does and ask if you are taking up too much of his afternoon.
notes Plante, "that it may take weeks to get your first
and several weeks more to line up an actual meeting." He
a swift, handwritten note after the initial introduction in which
you remind your contact of where you met, who you are, and that you’d
like to meet further. Tell him that you’ll be phoning him. Wait a
few days. Then do it.
to draw people out and get them on his side. "And you always know
you are winning the battle," smiles Mark, "when they stop
talking about themselves and begin asking you about you. Then the
tide has turned in your favor."
Of course no approach works every time, and when things start to go
sour, it’s best to fold your handshake and slip away. But before you
run off and pout, Plante suggests you examine your method and see
if it included any of his major DON’Ts:
the room is exactly like going after the prettiest girl at the dance.
Don’t make the same mistakes you did in high school. Telling her she’s
gosh awful pretty is a drooling redundancy. Telling her how handsome
you are and beyond someone like her is a put off. So avoid bringing
up your relative stations. Ms. Top Broker will be more charmed by
the services you can offer than how dazzled you are by her
in that one last pitch, that clever bon mot. You can’t forge a
business partner in the first meeting. Let your target know you’re
alive, interesting, and possibly mutually beneficial. Then leave and
let the intrigue simmer.
your knowledge of your target’s company through short comments or
better yet, clever questions. Lengthy expositions aid only sleep.
ooze from even the comeliest pores. You can’t hide it. If you enter
eying the room like a hungry ferret, lunge around glad-handing each
person and ditching them when they droop in the Boost-My-Career scale,
it will show. That top broker will see you coming and flee into his
5. Do not judge people as losers too quickly. It takes more
than 60 of your precious seconds to discern if a man can help you.
Nor does a woman’s trade alone mark her as worthy of your time. Try
a little less frantic haste, a little more sincere interest.
everyone as just plain folks may seem a bit childlike. On the other
hand, maybe the very sharpest thing to do is to make business
Strip away the rank and give the high steppers a chance to set a spell
with their feet up. It works for Mark Plante.
— Bart Jackson
Just as every human being has a personal identity, so
should every business have a business image. This image defines the
company to its owners and employees as well as to its customers.
image defines for the business itself what it is and what it should
do," says Arlene Schragger, owner of ads Public Relations
and Marketing. For the customer, an image provides "consistency
— knowing what you’re going to get every time."
Schragger, as president of the Mercer New Jersey Association of Women
Business Owners (NJAWBO) chapter, will be facilitating a Marketing
RoundTable on business images on Monday, December 11, at 7:45 a.m.
at Frederick J. Schragger Law Offices, 3131 Princeton Pike, Building
1B. Attendees are asked to design and bring to the workshop a Yellow
Pages eighth or quarter page ad as well as a bumper sticker that
the essence of their business. Cost: $10. Call 609-882-4586.
An image defines the scope and boundaries of a business, both what
the business does and what it does not do. "A business needs to
know where it’s going, what it’s doing, and why it’s there," says
Schragger. New businesses in particular need to clarify who they are.
"Having an image they can look at, something concrete on paper,
helps them to be focused," she says.
As an example, she cites her own business practice. When asked to
introduce her own business, she responds with a statement that
her company’s image: "I will do anything to help my client grow
his or her business, as long as it’s legal." And, indeed, her
services run the gamut: redecorating store windows, decorating office
space, and teaching her clients the basics of networking — what
organizations to join and how to walk, talk, and present themselves.
A well-defined image is also important to the customer; it "tells
people what you do, and they get to know that’s what you do,"
says Schragger. She believes that creating a business image is, in
essence, branding. When branding, a business must decide what it
that is unique and distinguishes it from other identical businesses.
As an example she uses two hypothetical accounting firms, both
all basic accounting services. The first firm’s image may be that
it offers "a million different services" and the second that
it offers "personal services." "Both approaches are
but it depends on what you need," says Schragger. A bigger firm
may need the extra services, but a smaller firm may appreciate the
handholding that a more "personal" firm will offer.
To create a business image and put it into practice:
is trying to sell.
to someone else who does the same thing. "A business must
its uniqueness and make sure it is part of all the PR, advertising,
and image building they do," says Schragger.
both owners and employees. The image cannot be imposed on a company
from on high. If the company’s employees have not bought into the
image and do not feel part of it, they will not carry it forth.
can have lofty images, ideals, and promises," says Schragger,
"but you have to be able to deliver, or people won’t trust you
after the first time."
"Everything has to coordinate and carry forth the message,"
says Schragger. "From the shopping bags they use, to the yellow
pages ads, to other ads, brochures, stationery, and uniforms.
it’s scattershot, and a scattershot approach doesn’t ever work as
For Schragger, even her company name helps deliver her business’
the first word, "ads," is both one of the services she offers
as well as her personal initials, and the rest of the company name,
"Public Relations & Marketing," describes what her business
high school Spanish for two years. After doing an extensive amount
of volunteer work while her children were small, she went to work
as inhouse marketing coordinator for Starr Tours, a motorcoach company
in Trenton. For five years she wrote travel brochures, flyers, and
some of Starr’s ads. She started her own company in 1987.
Schragger is now in her second year as president of the five-year-old
Mercer NJAWBO, which has 55 members. She has high hopes for the
monthly Marketing Roundtables. At the meetings, which are open to
nonmembers only once before joining, members will critique and support
each other’s growth and development in a variety of marketing areas.
Says Schragger: "We are hoping that this group grows and becomes
an informal board of directors for the members who are involved with
Schragger chose the assignment for the December 11 meeting —
a Yellow Pages ad and a bumper sticker — to help participants
create and express a business image that is consistent and concise.
"Marketing materials are frequently fragmented and not
says Schragger. In addition, she says, what business owners think
their marketing materials say to the public often is not what they
do say. The limited space of a Yellow Pages ad or a bumper sticker
also forces the owner to "be concise and precise and get the
down to a very few words."
She believes that the ability to express a business’ image without
a lot of verbiage is also critical to networking. "You may have
only three sentences worth of time to talk to people about your
and then they lose interest. You have to get to the essence in order
to keep people’s attention."
Schragger cites General Electric as a master of the business image.
When she was watching television talk shows on a recent Sunday, she
appreciated the GE ads that expressed its concise and well-tuned
image, `GE brings good things to life.’ "GE shows you visually
how they work in plastics and turn on lights in stadiums," says
Schragger. Just as they show and tell the public their image, so does
every business need to do so. "It makes life so much clearer for
the owner and the person who wants to do business."
— Michele Alperin
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