Conversation Killer

Wondering why your conversations don’t last long when networking? Perhaps you are talking about the wrong topic for just a bit too long.

I have been asked several times recently when I planned on creating another YouTube video after having a couple of thousand hits on the “I don’t know anyone survival basics” video. So at long last I am pulling audio from a recent seminar I gave on networking as a basis for a handful of new videos. This first one is a quick one-minute story about some in-person research I did on inadvertently ending a conversation. I hope you enjoy it!


Video link: “Conversation Killer

 

QR Codes: Rules, Response Rates, and Opportunity

I recently began testing the use of QR (Quick Reference) Codes in an effort to see how they could be leveraged as a new marketing tool. I have scanned these square barcode style codes using my smart phone plenty of times before, but usually when reading an advertisement or brochure in an effort to learn more about the product or service being sold. My objective, however, was a bit different: I wanted to see what it would take to transform these codes into a tool that could help me build relationships more effectively for our company, and ultimately bring more work in the door.

If you aren’t familiar with Quick Reference or QR Codes, they were created in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave. You have probably seen these square codes numerous times even if you haven’t ever scanned one. The rapid increase in the use of the codes for marketing is, in part, a result of their ease of use, and because Denso Wave chose to make the codes available for free without licensing requirements. As a result, QR Codes can be easily implemented into a marketing program with less effort than it takes to ensure you have the proper licensing to use a stock photographic image.

Common uses for QR Codes

You have probably seen the codes in numerous places, but throughout our industry and others QR Codes are being leveraged in a number of marketing platforms to provide an additional connection point with clients. The most common uses include:

  • Brochures – QR Codes are often used in brochures as a way for the reader to find additional information. Recently I scanned a code that led to a short YouTube video with additional images and information.
  • Post Cards – An effective post card traditionally has an action for the reader to take. QR Codes can help the reader take those actions even if they don’t have immediate access to a computer.
  • Advertising – Including QR codes in print advertising is increasingly being used to direct potential clients to additional information imbedded in videos or websites. Hickok Cole Architects in Washington, D.C. even started an industry scavenger hunt with QR Codes in a recent advertising campaign.
  • Business Cards – Including a QR Code on the back of your business card can create an easy way for contacts to download your vCard or to connect using social media.
  • Promotional Products – Many companies are having QR Codes printed on promotional products such as t-shirts that are given away at special events and trade shows.

Response Rates and Opportunity

As with any new marketing tool, it is important to start with research into the associated hit rate. A recent study at the Harvard campus showed a response rate of 0.3% when 160 signs that were distributed to gauge a response to the QR code experiment. For comparison purposes, this rate is analogous to the hit rate on your average post card mailing. For the study, half of the signs had instructions on the use of QR Codes and half did not. Notably 60% of the activated codes were from the versions with detailed instruction on how to use the QR Code, indicating that the awareness about QR code usage is still in an embryonic stage. Therein lies the opportunity for marketers to take advantage of this new tool, but it also shows that in order to increase your hit rates it is highly advantageous to provide detailed instructions on the use of QR Codes when using them in marketing.

Knowing the QR Code Rules

As with every marketing tool there are a handful of best practices that every marketer should know to effectively implement the tool. For QR Codes consider the following 5 rules:

  1. Smart-phone friendly – QR Codes are designed to be scanned by smart phones. Don’t send out a post card with a QR Code that leads to a website that is not smart phone friendly.
  2. Keep it short – Every character that you place into a QR Code must be translated into the code, thus be certain you shorten links before creating your code by using a website such as http://bit.ly If you want to use the QR Code for a complex function such as sharing a vCard consider developing a smart-phone friendly webpage that you can embed the vCard in since QR Codes with too many characters will not be readable by every smart-phone.
  3. Provide value – Don’t use QR Codes just because they exist, instead ensure that they provide value or your hit ratio will suffer.
  4. Instructions – Remember the Harvard campus study and give instructions on how to use QR Codes until you are certain that your target audience knows how to use them.
  5. Have fun – Get outside the box with designer QR codes. Check out www.customqrcodes.com for unique QR Code graphics that will set you apart from others in the industry.

Building Relationships: Scan Here to Connect

As I have been experimenting with QR Codes, one of the most successful ways I have used the code is on my business cards. For an industry built on relationships it didn’t take long to discover that using the codes to focus on individuals quickly led to new connections and new project leads. For testing purposes I created a quick smart-phone friendly website (www.TimKlabunde.com) that contains links to all of my social media connect points including LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, my blog Cofebuz, and YouTube. In addition, I created an easy link for visitors to download my vCard. I then created a QR Code at http://qrcode.kaywa.com and imprinted it on the back of my business cards.

The results have been intriguing to say the least. From a website analytics perspective, the hits have been much better than I expected and far better than the Harvard campus study: about 1 in 4 recipients have scanned the code. The true success of the experiment, however, has been the conversations that hatched when I first handed someone my business card. The QR Code has become a topic in-and-of itself, as it opens discussions related to the most effective uses of technology in marketing.

Technology as a Tool

As marketers, we often see new technology like QR Codes and begin to use it just because it exists. The problem is that technology for technology’s sake does not create great marketing. Great marketing happens when tools are leveraged together to meet a predetermined set of objectives, and in our industry that objective must be the establishment and furthering of great relationships.

This article, written by CofeBuz author Tim Klabunde, was published in the August edition of Marketer magazine.

What TO DO when networking

A couple of weeks ago we took a look at what not to do when networking. I thought it only appropriate to follow-up this week with a couple of helpful hints about what to do when networking:

  1. Don’t stress out. Networking is just building relationships, and the easiest way to do that is to help others first.
  2. When you meet someone listen for their name and use it after 1 minute of conversation. It reinforces your interest in them as a person and your interest in your conversation.
  3. Come prepared with three stories (children, vacation, social, etc.); stories provide interest and usually lead to follow-up questions and discussion. Remember: a story paints a picture, and a picture is worth a thousand words (and a thousand points of connection).
  4. Stray away from “business” quickly in your conversations.
  5. Focus on helping the people that you meet, not helping yourself. Would the person you are speaking with benefit from you introducing them to someone else you know in the room? Do you have information that the person you are speaking with might benefit from?
  6. Follow-up. Can you offer to do something tomorrow, and can you remember to do it?

In all that you do, remember to be yourself. When you are yourself and just focus on developing great friendships awesome things happen.

Under-appreciated people, networking, and relationships

redwineIf you were to open my top left desk drawer you would find two things in it, a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne. I don’t keep them in my drawer because they were left over from last years’ holiday party; they are there to thank others for their help making us successful.

Under-appreciated people
In the fast paced business environment prevalent today, I have found that people are generally under-appreciated. Think back over the past year about how many times you helped other people, perhaps it is a hundred or a thousand times? Now think about how many thank you notes you have received. I often ask this question when speaking on networking and have found that only about 5% of people in any given room have received a thank you note in the past three months!

Appreciation Benefits
Did you ever consider the benefits of taking the extra time to say thank you? Here are two benefits you may consider:

  1. Thanking people reinforces the behaviour you are thanking them for and increases the chances that that behaviour will be repeated in the future.
  2. Showing gratitude helps to build your relationship and differentiates you from the hundreds of other people that the other person works with.

Go buy some champagne
Consider taking a moment to ensure that others know that you are genuinely thankful for their efforts. The holiday season is a great time to start, but remember that it is something that benefits everyone regardless of the time of year.

Space Mountain

This past week I had the privilege of taking my oldest son Evan on his first roller coaster: Space Mountain at Disney World. It was one of those great moments in life when you get to re-live and pass along the feeling and experiences of growing up. I loved watching my boy in line as the mixture of excitement and nerves left his heart racing and hands shaking. Personally, I’m grateful that Space Mountain wasn’t my first roller coaster; I still remember my first ride on Space Mountain with my dad as we fell, spiraled, and turned in the dark never knowing what was going to happen next. I wondered what was in store for Evan after the ride: would this be his last roller coaster for several years or was he going to get “hooked?” As we started the climb listening to the clack, clack, clack of the ascent I reached forward and put my hand on his shoulder.

I think that we have all been there, waiting in hopeful anticipation of the first exhilarating moment after having made a decision to strap ourselves into something new. It is a feeling that I can only refer to as being truly alive. I used to believe that those moments came to us with less and less frequency the older we became, yet this past week I realized that we can gain even more satisfaction when we help others to reach the places that we have already been. It isn’t a replacement for that moment in our lives, instead it is a natural progression that again leaves you with the feeling of being truly alive.

As we got off the ride Evan was undoubtedly feeling the exhilaration of life, but I was enjoying the fulfillment and contentment of helping him experience something new. Walking away Evan grabbed my hand and thanked me for keeping my hand on his shoulder, then he quickly changed the topic in true boy fashion by half yelling “Dad that was AWESOME!”

When was the last time you truly felt alive?

What NOT to do when networking

I was at a networking function the other day and was reminded of the humorous and not-so-humorous things that people do when they are at networking events. Here is a quick list of things that you should avoid the next time you are out at a networking event:

  • Talking about the traffic or weather is ok, but it is a conversation killer if it goes on longer than 45 seconds.
  • If you are not a salesperson DO NOT SELL. Remember, networking is about building relationships.
  • Don’t be an excessive name dropper. Name dropping once or twice in a conversation can be beneficial as you work to identify mutual relationships, but be careful not to name drop in excess as others might find it annoying.
  • It is proper etiquette to wait until you understand what someone does for a living before you exchange business cards. It also keeps you from looking like you are more interested in collecting cards than building relationships.
  • Limit your drinking; a good rule of thumb is one drink per hour. This keeps you sharp and ready for the next conversation.
  • Don’t give someone that you just meet a brochure. It makes you look like a salesperson rather than a future friend. Brochures are for follow-up.
  • Finally, please don’t look for someone else to talk to while you are engaged in conversation. Believe it or not people can tell that you looking over their shoulders.

Remember that networking is about relationships, not events. Networking is not usually stressful if you are focusing on building relationships and having fun. If you are temped to “work the room” consider a new career in sales. If you want to build mutually beneficial relationships that will help your career and your company, just be yourself and look for ways to help everyone that you meet.  —  What would you add to the list?

 

Live One Life

At the turn of this year I wrote a little three word note that I thought was going to be a simple objective for the year: Live One Life. It was fairly straightforward when I wrote it down; I just want to be myself regardless of who I am with and what is going on around me.

The problem: Live One Life was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be. In order to live one life I needed to know who I am, what I stand for, and choose to be that person regardless of what others think or say.

Realistically, I don’t have all of those answers. I know what I stand for but I don’t understand how that always should coincide with my actions. Worse yet, I am a personal perfectionist. I know that mistakes are part of life; I just think that they shouldn’t be a part of my life.

Marley and Me

Several weeks into my newfound identity crisis we adopted a puppy named Marley. On a side note Marley was given a name and a subtitle (yes seriously) thanks to the book and movie Marley and Me. So if you ever meet her feel free to greet her as “Marley, the world’s best dog.”

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Marley already knew exactly who she was. It didn’t matter what type of day anyone else was having she just loved to be herself: she always greets me at the door, she is always a friend, and it is obvious that she genuinely loves just being herself.

Live One Life

Then it hit me: Living One Life isn’t as complicated as I thought; in fact it is so simple that even Marley can do it. I just needed to be ME. Living One Life means giving yourself the freedom to be imperfect and the opportunity to do what you can to make the world a better place.  It is a life focus on doing what I can do rather than focusing on what I can’t do.

Why Introverts are Great at Networking

business_people1For years I have watched with astonishment as many of my introvert friends have excelled at social/business networking. If you read most books on networking, (there are hundreds of thousands of them) you continually see information that is geared towards extroverts: how to work a room, how to effectively meet new people, and what to do at association events. The problem is that these thoughts are great, but not necessarily for introverts! By embracing who you are as an introvert and working your personal strengths you can see more success from your network than most extroverts. The secret is to focus on who you are.

Start with Who You Are

Let’s start with two obvious facts: 1) Just like extroverts, introverts are ‘pre-wired’ with a need for relationships. 2) Relationships are foundation of Networking. Based on these two facts it is easy to see that introverts should be able to easily succeed at networking, if only someone would tell them how to do it! You’re in luck, here is the secret:

Learn the key to Networking

With all that has been written on networking I am consistently amazed at how rapidly the central idea behind networking is overlooked. Networking is nothing less than focusing on and helping other people. When we help someone else once, it creates an innate and positive response. When we help someone three times, it creates a desire for them to help us in return; and when we help someone a dozen times, they have a healthy desire to help us in return. The great thing about real networking is that it creates mutually beneficial relationships where two people are consistently looking for ways to help one another. The key to this happening is concentrated effort on a specific group of people that over time develops these multiple mutually beneficial relationships.

The Introvert Advantage

Introverts are natural networkers because they have a tendency to focus on a smaller number of relationships. This same concentrated approach can be developed by extroverts, but it is very natural for an introvert to develop a strong core of relationships that can feed them opportunities and information.

Taking the first steps to start networking

To start networking as an introvert you need to take two first steps: 1) recognize that networking is nothing less than helping other people without expecting anything in return and 2) identify a core group of people (More than 10 and less than 20) that would fit well into your network. For example, if your business was marketing for an architecture firm and your best friend is an astrophysicist, they are probably not the right person for your business network. Then start networking by continually helping that group of people, you’ll be amazed at what happens as others start returning the favor.

How can I help you?

As 2010 comes to a close I have been thinking about the lessons learned since I began Cofebuz almost 3 years ago. You, my friends here on Cofebuz and throughout the world in the Design and Construction Network, have been such a great part of my life.  It has been during this time that I have realized that true success comes from relationships and that helping others is the best way to build great relationships.

As I look towards 2011, I realize that my network of relationships is stronger today than it ever has been. It is my desire to use this network to bring people together.  I want to help others build relationships where they did not previously exist and to create friendships that stretch far beyond business into the parts of our lives that truly matter. So, how can I help you? What can we do together in 2011 that will really matter on January 1, 2012 and beyond? Please post a comment here, or send me a note directly to tim-at-cofebuz.com. It is your turn… how can I help you?

Your approach matters

This morning I received an email from “Mark” (his real name will remain anonymous) requesting approval to join the Design and Construction Network (the 10,000+ person networking group I founded early last year). While I receive these emails all the time the content of this email had me taking a second look, it simply said “What benefit or contribution can I get out of joining?” 

In 10 words Mark proved that he does not understand real networking, and I don’t think that Mark is the only one. For the past 20 years we have been taught that networking is a means to generate sales, while in reality it is about building relationships. Imagine if Mark walked up to you and asked “What benefit or contribution can I get out of meeting you?” Instead of building a mutually beneficial relationship his approach would undermine any reasonable chance at building a true relationship.

How are you approaching networking? Do you proactively build relationships through your actions and interactions? The real secret to building great relationships is to help others first, the result is friends that enjoy being around you and know that you have their best interest in mind.