“Andy’s style suited our company values perfectly as it is very much based around letting people learn at their own pace and be part of the sessions instead of just being presented to. There was a mixture of experience, job roles, nationalities and seniority in the room and Andy ensured that everyone felt this training was directed at them, such is his way with words. ”
Robert Kenward, Global Development Director, Banks Sadler
“Andy, thanks again for making our Balance HK event a huge success. The audience gave you their undivided attention and you could hear a pin drop when you were speaking. I have never witnessed that before, with a room of 170+ people! ”
Maggie Suttie, Chair Balance Network, HSBC Hong Kong
“I found the session with Andy really interesting and helpful. It offered a different perspective to development sessions I have been to before and it made me really think about how I was positioning myself at work and what I needed to be doing differently. ”
Tori Henderson, Senior Public Policy Manager HSBC
“The feedback we received from members was overwhelmingly positive, making it one of the best sessions we had all year. ”
Aileen Parsons, Relationship Manager - Strategic Client Services, Paypal
“Wherever I go, Andy is held in very high regard and I can personally endorse him as someone who is easy to do business with, professional and also great to work with. ”
Phil Jones MBE, Managing Director, Brother UK
“'Networking' as a topic can often seem forced... about tools and techniques to 'work a room' or 'get noticed' - Andy's take on it in this talk was so far removed from the glib truisms we've all heard before. ”
Bryony Thomas, Watertight Marketing
“I would not be exaggerating in saying that last night was the most well received and successful event YEN London has had in over two years. ”
Jairo Jaramillo - Chairman, London Young Engineers Network
“Andy is really engaging and left the audience wanting more which is a rarity when you work in Finance! He is extremely professional and personable and it felt like Andy really knew the topics and had researched the audience. ”
Nicola Hradek, Co-Chair HSBC Balance Employee Network
“Andy is an energetic presenter who quickly captured our audience's attention. The content of his presentation was excellent and fostered lively commentary and questions. We will definitely have Andy back for another session and are looking for other ways to partner with him. ”
Jennifer Rademaker, Head of Strategy Development Europe, MasterCard
“The feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive and we will continue to run the training in other offices in EMEA. ”
Astrid Huijssoon, Senior Marketing Manager Cross Border Trade - PayPal CEMEA
“There is a handful of people who I would consider really an expert in networking, and Andy is one of the few people on that list. ”
Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder and CEO, BNI
“Several people were surprised to find out that Andy didn’t work in our sector as he related his knowledge so well and confidently, which was key to getting the audience to buy into his advice. ”
Suzanne Rowse, Director, British Boarding Schools Workshop
“Andy Lopata is a true role model for any aspiring professional speaker in my view ”
Heather Townsend, author of The Financial Times Guide to Business Networking
“Andy worked with my business partner and me for a number of months as a referral and networking coach. Our business has demonstrably grown due to the new techniques and skills learned through working with Andy. ”
Dan Hall, Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch
“In the three months since Andy delivered his sessions, I've noticed a clear change in the approach taken by everyone who participated. We have already received a number of referrals as a result. ”
Andy O'Sullivan, Head of Sales - Hospitality, Wembley Stadium
“"I was captivated by Andy's insightful and thought-provoking workshop. You could feel the energy in the room at the end. Several people commented that the event had changed their lives!" ”
Miranda Abraham, Chair, Women in Banking and Finance
“At each stage of the event from planning to delivery to follow up, Andy’s approach was extremely impressive. He spent time at the outset understanding us, the way we work and our key objectives and this continued with discussions with us in the run up to the event to shape the session to our needs. ”
Andrew Kelly, Director Human Capital Services, BDO llp
“In the pre-event correspondence, you were the most professional speaker we’ve ever had. By asking great questions as you did, it helped to make us more professional event organisers. ”
Jackie Barrie, Co-President, Professional Speaking Association South East England
“There are many motivational speakers on the circuit who leave behind them just a short lived glow and then there are the subject matter pragmatic, passionate presenters who can potentially change the long term way their audience thinks or operates. I’d put Andy Lopata in the latter category. ”
Trevor Salomon – Director, Corporate Marketing, IFS
“As a direct result of Andy’s workshop, we are now implementing a “networking strategy” that is aligned to supporting our key business goal. Andy’s advice/insights have made me re-think all my customer interactions and even in the short term I am getting results. ”
Adam Newman, Health Outcomes Consultant, GSK
“Andy's 'The Networking Mindset' networking event was fascinating. I've been to loads of networking events over the years which are always full of people who don't quite know why they're there.... myself included. ”
Nicholas Harkin, Head of Risk & Governance at Close Brothers Retail Finance
“It is great to work with a speaker like Andy who really wants to understand the audience he speaks to and tailors his content to them. ”
Galina Lebedeva, Education & Events Senior Co-ordinator, Wella UK & Ireland
“I have already received three emails and two telephone calls from attendees who have expressly advised that as a direct result of the presentation they will without doubt be changing the way in which they network. A huge success. ”
Michael Strawbridge, Head of Member Services, Learning and Performance Institute
“Not only my individual life has had a total makeover after I met Andy, as a result of my personal improvement, the networks that I lead are now making a much bigger impact in the society. I can never thank Andy enough and would highly recommend him any time without hesitation. ”
Ruth Lau, Central Marketing, HSBC Private Bank
“The process to gaining the right referrals does not happen overnight, but executing Andy’s strategy into your daily business routine will lead to referral success. ”
Tom Price LLB DipPFS Hodgson Wealth Management
“Andy has a can do and flexible attitude and is happy to develop and shape the content in line with the clients changing needs. Feedback from participants on Andy's workshops has been consistently very positive. ”
Una Murphy, Manager BBC Careerlink
“It was the best talk I’ve ever been to. Loved the content, pacing, delivery, structure. Your message was very memorable (imparting that much information can leave listeners forgetting what was said) and you managed the balance between substance, detail and memorability well. ”
Rebecca Aguilar, BBC Worldwide
“Andy has successfully elevated networking into more of a strategic arena ...................rather than it just being a "skills" thing. ”
Phil Jesson, Director of Speaker Development Academy for Chief Executives
“Andy's enthusiastic and interactive presentation at our National conference was very much appreciated by all and his series of workshops for my leadership team has been put to significant positive use. ”
Shona MacDonald, Business Director UK & Ireland, Wound Care. Molnlycke Health Care
“I would recommend Andy to come and spend time with any team that wants to maximize the time of its busy people out in the market ”
Tomas Freyman, Partner, Valuations. BDO llp
“Andy certainly made a difference on how I normally approach / perceive events such as this. ”
Ann Azzopardi, Category Buying Manager, Pret a Manger

The Rules of Engagement

Last week I spent a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days speaking at ‘Sage World 2010’, a conference run by the business software company Sage. I spoke both at the beginning of the first day of the event and at the very end of the last, so was involved throughout. And I had a wonderful time.

What made Sage World so outstanding for me was the atmosphere. It was one where the staff, the speakers and the delegates all shared a positive spirit and a sense of community.

When an event of this nature is put on by a large company specifically for a ‘target’ audience the risk is that they will use the opportunity to sell at every turn. While Sage naturally had a highly visible presence across the event, the attitude seemed to be one of educating and supporting, rather than selling. The majority of delegates were existing customers rather than prospects and Sage Staff made up the bulk of the event ‘crew’, simply focusing on making sure everything ran smoothly rather than thrusting any corporate message down delegates’ collective throats.

In fact, possibly the biggest compliment I could pay is that if you didn’t know otherwise, you could have assumed that many of the event crew ran events full time.

I was also impressed at how many of the senior members of the Sage team got involved and played their part in making the Conference run smoothly. There was a strong sense of team spirit and focus, with everyone equally involved.

Sage’s approach last week was one that so many other larger businesses should take notice of; an approach that embraced what I believe is the new form of marketing.  Rather than simply trying to sell, they sought to engage with their customers and support their needs.

At a meeting with another large organisation after the conference I was asked for my thoughts on the concept of ‘A Random Act of Kindness’; the value of giving something without necessarily expecting something direct in return. After a moment’s hesitation I simply outlined the power of Sage’s approach and the response from their customers who I met at the event.

It is so easy for companies dealing with small business to become a faceless corporation to the masses they serve. And I am sure that, like any organisation of this size, there are those who will have their ‘war stories’ describing issues with Sage.

However, the more they do to engage directly with their customers in this way, the more the positive stories can outweigh any negative. In my closing talk I explained how, left to their own devices, people will be far more likely to spread bad news than good. After all, if you only meet people’s expectations they have no story to tell. Fall below them and they will want to tell everyone.

You have to substantially exceed expectations to generate positive word of mouth. Such ‘random acts of kindness’ as putting on a free event of this nature for your customers and bringing together industry leaders and business experts to speak for them creates such a buzz. But it can only do so if you embrace such a venture with the positivity and openness displayed last week.

I say that this is a ‘new form of marketing’ and it contrasted starkly with the actions of one of Sage’s competitors. It was this contrast that prompted me to write this blog.

This competitor saw what Sage were doing and decided to embark on some guerrilla marketing to try to hijack the event. They parked advertising trucks outside the venue with negative slogans and they tried to hijack the Twitter conversation by promoting their own message and adding the Sage World hashtag.

Their approach was both crass and clumsy. Their staff even blogged and tweeted in praise of their own “brilliant marketing”, overlooking the fact that using their company name in every Twitter profile made their tweets look anything but objective.

If Sage had simply tried to sell to the people who attended, if their staff hadn’t positively engaged with everyone there, perhaps such a campaign would have enjoyed some success. In the circumstances, however, it was impossible for their competitor to be heard above the positive comments from attendees on the Twitter stream and elsewhere.

If you have enjoyed the company of Sage staff and found the event they have put on for you valuable, would you really be distracted by an advertising van outside for a competing product?

Ironically, I later found out that the product the competitor was promoting was targeting a completely different audience to the one attending Sage World. So not only was their approach negative, their research was seriously lacking.

Twenty-first century marketing is about engagement and attraction, not negativity and destruction. It is about listening, not broadcasting. It is about letting people buy from you rather than selling as much as you can.

This approach of putting a free event on for customers and prospects isn’t unique, nor is the enthusiasm of the team involved. Other companies put on similar events, albeit often locally rather than nationally and not always on such an ambitious scale. I am sure we’ll see more to come. It is imperative that the attitude at such events should always be one of engagement, not selling; seeing customers as colleagues, not targets.

In the meantime, I hope that their competitor’s efforts get their just reward too, and that they recognise that there is a different, more positive and more enjoyable way to win new business.

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