The Old Rules Still Apply

MarketerCoverThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the October edition Marketer.

Successful businesses are built on foundational truths that do not change with market conditions or time. To be successful in 2010 you are going to need to focus on the same things that business leaders needed to focus on in the last century: the people inside your company, the clients outside of your company, and your network in your industry.

People are the ultimate reason that businesses succeed or fail. Regardless of your placement in your corporate structure, your success and that of your company will be defined primarily by your relationships with people. The key is to build mutually beneficial relationships where people want to help you succeed as you help them succeed.

Rules that build success

We all know that relationships can be complicated, but there is a fundamental truth that determines if you are building up or tearing down relationships: relationships grow if you selflessly help another person succeed; relationships dwindle when you focus on yourself and your own wants.

If you meet someone for the first time, and they subsequently help you, you will be appreciative of their efforts and probably remember them. If that same person were to help you three times over the following month, you would keep an eye out for ways to help them in return. If they helped you a dozen times, providing you new client introductions, referrals, and leads, you would develop a strong desire to help them in return. This desire to help is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship where two people are constantly looking for ways to help each other. One important key to this happening is concentrated effort on a specific group of people that over time develops into multiple mutually beneficial relationships.

Rules for inside

Most everyone recognizes that they need IT support to succeed, yet many people approach their IT department with a focus on their own needs and then can’t understand why their requests are always at the bottom of the to-do list. In marketing we often seem to forget that the rules of building success with people outside our companies also apply to people inside our companies. We need people, both inside our companies and outside our companies, to succeed. People that focus solely on achieving their own success are rarely able to achieve it in the long-term because they lack the support of a team that wants to help them succeed. Consider what would happen if you started helping your IT department succeed by cleaning up your server space, purging or archiving old e-mails, and supporting their efforts in meetings. I can tell you from personal experience that the result with be that your requests will likely be given a high priority. The same applies to accounting, marketing, operations, human resources, other project managers, and even management. When you focus on helping others your build a team that wants to help you and make you succeed.

Rules for outside

We all know that when we market we need to focus on existing clients and prospective clients. What most people fail to realize is that, after marketing to your existing clients for additional work, the least expensive marketing approach is usually to market to others in your industry that can’t hire you! Networking is the art of building mutually beneficial relationships that provide a wealth of leads and referrals from others. Many people fail to build strong networks because in America we have improperly aligned “networking” with “sales,” and sales is something most professionals avoid at all cost. Sales should not drive the relationship; instead, the relationship should drive the sales. True networking is the development of relationships, and relationships are something that all of us have a God-given instinct and need to develop. What this means is that everyone in your company can help bring work in the door simply by being relational and developing an effective network.

The rules that still apply

So, there are some important old rules that still apply. A true network of relationships is not to be confused with the self-serving “good-old-boys” network.  Instead, success in business is derived from genuine relationships. If you are ready to build the foundation of your business this year, then it is time to refocus on people. After all, it is the people in your company that will make you profitable, and it is the people outside of your company that foster your growth.

Building Relationships that Build Business

Relationships are the foundation of business. Whether it is relationships inside your company or outside of your company, relationships allow your business to either thrive or fail. Because of this, focusing on relationships is one of the most effective ways to improve your company and simultaneously build personal success.

Identify key relationships
Think about the relationships that you need in order to succeed. These relationships may include others in your company, your industry, or your circle of influence. Now take a moment to write down the top 10 people you need to succeed and rate the strength of those relationships. How you are doing? Are these relationships weak or are they strong? Most people will find a mixed bag: some relationships that are incredibly strong, and others at the breaking point. In order to succeed you need these relationships, so what can you do to ensure that these relationships are strong?

Do something about it
The best way to build a relationship is simply to help other people; not to return a favor, but simply because you want to build the relationship. Business relationships are often weakened by years of taking with very little giving in return. To strengthen a relationship all you need to do is help the other person without seeking personal gain. Some examples of this include: providing a contract lead to a client, turning your timesheets in on-time (for an overextended accountant), and providing timely information to others in the industry. The goal is to proactively work to make their life easier.

Why it Works
If someone helps you once you would appreciate it; if they helped you 10 times, you would develop a healthy desire to return the favor; if they helped you 30 times you would do every you could to help them in return. This is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship, a relationship where two people are consistently looking for ways to help one another.

Building a relationship that builds business starts when you selflessly help others.  Who on your list do you need to help today?

The Perfect Client Relationship Management System

PostItNotesThere comes a day in the life of every rainmaker when they realize that they need a better system to track relationships. John was there. He was failing to return phone calls, several clients were unhappy with his responsiveness, and he was no longer being proactive with his current and future clients. He was falling behind. For John it was simple: he needed a system that was easy to use and easy to implement.  He needed something that made his life easier and reminded him when he needed to reconnect with someone he hadn’t been in contact with for awhile.

You already have a CRM (Client Relationship Management) System

What most people fail to realize when considering the purchase of a CRM is that they are already using one. Be it post it notes on your desk or Microsoft Outlook, you inevitably already have a system in place to track relationships. The question is how effective is your system?

Most people looking for a CRM system are very similar to John. We know that our life would be much easier if we could simply capture and retrieve data in an efficient and effective way. The problem with most corporate CRM systems is that they are complicated because of the need for multiple employees to be on the same system. This has made many CRM systems cumbersome, eliminating one of the foundational reasons CRM systems are needed in the first place: to make us more effective. The result is that many CRM systems sit unused as employees take the path of least resistance and track relationships individually through outlook or other personal systems, eliminating the benefit of crosspollination inside the company.

The Perfect CRM

The future of CRM will be based around the capture of always-up-to-date data streams that can integrate that data into shared workspaces. For example, LinkedIn and Facebook already have data that is always up to date because individuals are always updating their own information. Now, take that data and attach a CRM system that allows you to privately add notes from your last conversation, e-mails, or proposals. The end result would be client contact that is always up to date not just with the information you added, but also with personal information such as where they graduated college, there previous employers, photos, etc… The perfect CRM rests in the capture of public data and information, and its integration with private workspaces that allow you to track the personal conversations.

What You Need to do Today

Today most CRM solutions don’t have the option for integrated data from online environments. However, Outlook, the tool that the majority of people use to manage contacts, does. You can start integrating your contacts with online data today by downloading LinkedIn’s Outlook Toolbar. It continually updates your contacts with up to date LinkedIn profile information, notifies you when your contacts change their LinkedIn profile, and provides you with mini-profiles and photos whenever someone emails you.

Remember, regardless of whether you are a CRM user or you are responsible for establishing a corporate CRM system, the key to its success is making it simple and easy to use and understand. Once you experience the benefits of a great CRM you’ll never do business any other way again.

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About the Perfect CRM Discussion

This post was written as part of the Perfect CRM discussion posted by some of the industries best known marketers and authors. It is a series of essays on the topic of client relationship management tools. Each expert drew upon years of experience to outline their vision of the perfect CRM system. This exercise will provide you with new insights into what works, what doesn’t work, and what you should consider when implementing a CRM system.

The experts include:

Visit these sites to read each expert’s take on the perfect CRM.

The makings of a different type of company

whiteduckI sat in my office this morning writing down a list of what makes our company different from our competitors.  After a couple of minutes writing things like “quality, rapid response, and expertise in…” I quickly realized that I wasn’t writing down anything that truly differentiated us from our competition… or Visa, AOL, or HP for that matter.

After thinking about what really sets a company apart I started a second list focusing on what differentiates several successful individuals in our company from others in the industry.  This time I came up with a much different list that noted such things as: honesty, integrity, openness, understanding, humility, and a desire to help others. 

We often use the phrase “what goes around comes around” when we see good things happen to good people (or bad things happen to bad people); what we don’t often make note of is that this same rule applies to business and to companies. Successful companies in virtually every industry are building corporate cultures that embrace a moral centered workplace and values driven marketing. 

The Result

What goes around comes around: Businesses thrive when they provide solutions to problems with honesty and integrity rather than serving the ‘almighty’ dollar.

Social Media as a Marketing Tool

web20logosFrank Casale of The Outsourcing Institute sent me a great Wall Street Journal article this weekend entitled “How Facebook Ruins Friendships.” It was informative and humorous, but what I found most interesting were the social media tools at the bottom of the page: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, etc…  While it is ironic that an article making fun of social media tools would have them embedded in the article, it is a sign of the times. Today it seems that everyone, even the Wall Street Journal, recognizes the effectiveness of social media as a marketing tool.

We use Eventbrite to promote the Design and Construction Network events primarily because no other event registration website has such an extensive social media arsenal. Even Cofebuz now has a “tweet this post” link at the bottom of every article, and many of our most involved readers are from LinkedIn article referrals.

Social Media as a Marketing Tool

So we all get it, social media is powerful. But the real question is how to capture social media as a marketing tool. Let me give you the four secrets that I have found effective in turning the web into a powerful marketing tool. I’m certain many of you have your own insights as well so feel free to use the comments section at the end to add them.

Four secrets to turning social media into a marketing tool:

  1. Social media works when real value has been created – Try posting a tweet about last week’s weather and see how many people retweet it or reply. Start a blog about your journey selecting carpet color for your home and see how many people sign-up for your e-mail updates. The same is true for your company, make certain what you write creates value for others and they will be drawn to the value you are providing.
  2. Social media works when it isn’t selfish – Ever been turned off by a salesman that told you they really needed a sale because of XYZ reason? Online those that are selfish generally lose and those that are selfless typically win.
  3. Social media works when you can create a “buzz” – If you have successfully achieved the first two social media secrets you are positioned for creating a buzz, known as viral marketing. Viral marketing is the idea that others, even people you don’t know, will promote your idea for you because they think it deserves recognition and attention. The results? The greatest return you’ll ever see for your marketing dollar.
  4. Social media works when you have friends – Frank Casale (the individual that sent me the article above) is not only the CEO of one of the largest outsourcing associations in the world, he also has focused on building amazing friendships. I have found that real success comes not when someone pushes to achieve their own dreams, but when we push together to achieve our dreams. At a minimum, we have people to enjoy the journey with and to toast when we reach the top.

2009 Marketing S&E Survey Executive Summary

smps-logoThis past week Michele Santiago of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) forwarded me the executive summary of the 2009 Marketing S&E Survey as released by the SMPS Foundation. Looking it over I found a wealth of information and I wanted to share the highlights with you. Also, with Michele’s permission, I have posted a copy of the complete executive summary under the “resources” tab here on Cofebuz. I hope you find the information as interesting and as helpful as I did!

Summary of the Executive Summary

In the Design and Construction Industry:

  • Offices spent an average of 8.0% of their 2008 net revenues on marketing.
  • On average 4% of a companies workforce is involved in marketing full time.
  • An additional 10% of company personnel are involved in the marketing process, just not as their primary job.
  • About two-thirds of offices (63%) reported that there was no change in the number of their marketing-related employees in 2008 compared to 2007.
  • Among the offices reporting a change in the number of marketing related employees: 22% reported an increase and 14% reported a decrease in 2008.
  • When asked to look ahead to 2009 82% of offices indicated the number of marketing-related employees will stay about the same. 10% thought there would be an increase and 6% predicted a decrease.
  • Marketers’ mean age is 38.6. Females are the majority in the built and natural environment field, outnumbering males by a ratio of four-to-one.
  • More than four in five marketers (83%) have obtained a four-year college degree, including 16% who hold a graduate degree. (I would like to know how many have a marketing degree, at a SMPS VA conference last year it was less than 35%)
  • More than one in three marketers (36%) have formal design and construction technical training such as engineering or architecture.
  • Average marketing expenses breakdown: 36.4% on compensation and fringe benefits for marketing personnel, 32.4% on Business development, 15% for promotion (advertising etc…), and 6.4% on  planning and research (business/marketing plans, competitors, etc.).

As noted above, if you would like to read the complete executive summary, simply go to resources and look for “SMPS 2009 Marketing S&E Survey Executive Summary.” If you would like to read the full report, the information on how to obtain it is available in the last page of the executive summary.

Hermanisms: Writings of a Failure Expert

hermanismsI was speaking at AIA Design DC this past week when I meet John Herman. After our brief conversation he handed me a copy of his latest book: Hermanisms: Axioms for Business & Life. Now most of you know that I am not the least bit cynical, but when someone gives you a free copy of their book it usually means that it is a really lousy book. So I stuffed it in my bag with the intent of scanning through it before sharing it with the recycling bin. Sitting in traffic on the way home I picked it up and started flipping through the pages only to find it difficult to put down. Two days later I finished the 285 page book and would easily describe it as one the best business books I have read in years!

The Failure Expert

John is a self described failure expert, and rightfully so. Many of the stories in his book come from the lessons he learned while he was the owner of a consulting firm that worked with over 1,000 failing businesses (think bankruptcy, not just having a bad year). His “Hermanisms” recount many of the stories and lessons that he learned while cleaning up the mess these firms were in, and provide a unique look at the causes and effects that the decisions we make have on our businesses.

Knowledge learned through stories

One thing I enjoyed about Hermanisms was the use of stories to make a point. John is clearly not just a great story teller, but someone that knows how to help you understand more about yourself and business through the telling of a story. The stories in his book are crisp and to the point, yet ring true to life as they make his points come alive through humor and as you see the pain others have gone through.

Hermanism #60

When it comes to business, I especially enjoyed Hermanism #60: “A great idea, talent, hard work, good timing, help from others, immense publicity, and luck are sometimes all you need to make it.” How often have you had a great idea only to realize that in order for it to succeed you needed so much more?

Enough said, let me encourage you to just buy the book (You can’t beat the used price at Amazon.com). Just be forewarned: you also might not be able to put it down.

Return the Favor

Has someone ever helped you to the point that you sat at your desk and tried to think up ways to return the favor?

One such time happened for me in 2006 when a friend worked to get me on a team for a major project that resulted in an $800,000 contract from my company.  What took her 15 minutes (time spent selling someone else on using my firms services) would have cost me 40 hours of phone calls, multiple lunches, and numerous meetings, and even still I wouldn’t have been guaranteed a spot on the team.  Needless to say, I was not only thankful to my friend for her work, but I literally sat at my desk working up ways to return the favor.

 The key to this story wasn’t how she helped to get me on the team; it is how your actions can motivate other people to help you.  Those 15 minutes of work have resulted in dozens of referrals and project leads as I have worked to return the favor.  As my friend focused on helping me, she was developing a mutually beneficial relationship that resulted in me working hard to help her.

If you are looking to increase your effectiveness, start by helping other people in your network.  What can you do today that will leave someone else pondering what they can do to return the favor?

Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

twitter_birdsThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the Design and Construction Report, a publication for members of the Design and Construction Network.

A recent Sprint Nextel commercial included a brief glimpse into the world of Twitter. It depicted hundreds of little blue “Twitter birds” with small cell phone shaped text boxes above their heads. Looking at the group you could see that each bird was speaking a message towards their fellow blue friends. As the birds chirped they were creating a flurry of messages, yet each message was the same: “Me!”

This funny and quick snippet speaks volumes about the fundamental issue most people face when trying to leverage Twitter for business. That is the Twitter culture to focus on sharing about oneself.

How businesses fail with Twitter

To properly see the Twitter flaw we must first start with the basics of Web 2.0. At first the internet was primarily about online shopping sites and providing information. Even today you can see this in many corporate websites that are set-up as online brochures. Within a couple of years, however, things began to change. People began to realize that the fastest way to succeed online was to provide value, drawing a crowd from people that were looking for information and resources. This new interactive online environment became known as Web 2.0 and included web forms, blogs, social networking communities, and information resources. 

In the midst of these changes Twitter was started as a platform for individuals to share short updates of 140 characters or less to anyone that was interested in reading them. As Twitter became successful in strengthening relationships companies began to look for ways to leverage the growing platform to expand their businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the companies and individuals that have set out to leverage Twitter have failed. Most have missed the fundamental requirement of the new web, that in order to succeed you must provide value. Today many individuals and companies that try to use Twitter for business are “Me!” users rather than focusing on others. Those that have failed to embrace helping others in the community are ignored and filtered from Twitter updates by users.

How to succeed with Twitter

With the knowledge that providing value is the key to success on the web, it is easy to begin to see how you can become successful at turning Twitter into a true business tool. Instead of thinking about what you can gain from Twitter you must first start by thinking about how you can help people that follow you. Take these two questions: 

  1. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they informed you when they were stuck in traffic, what they had for dinner, and what they were doing this weekend?
  2. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they regularly contained leads for new work, great articles regarding your industry, links to requests for proposals, and information on local networking events they were attending?

The interesting thing about the second person is that not only would most people follow an individual that was providing those resources; they would also probably try to meet them at an upcoming event. Notably, they would be interested in building a relationship outside of the online environment. This new relationship development then becomes the basis for success through Twitter.

Building success online

Remember that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, and other Web 2.0 sites are only tools that can help build a foundation for mutually beneficial relationships. You must personally evaluate what tools are best to help you reach your personal objectives, noting that some of these tools take much more time than others. Personally, I have chosen not to focus on Twitter but rather on providing value to others through blogging (cofebuz.com), LinkedIn, and the Design and Construction Network (mydcn.com).

Your turn

As you look at your goals for your online presence, evaluate what tools will work best for you. It will most probably be any number of online tools of which one might be Twitter. Regardless of the tools you choose, remember that success is found online when you provide value to others.

Money, Wealth, and Relationships

moneyOn his Wealth blog this week Kenneth Klabunde wrote a must read article entitled Redefining Wealth. In the article he defines the intersection of wealth and relationships: “Sustainable wealth requires resources and relationships.  Resources include our skills, knowledge, money and property.  Relationships give purpose for these resources, and provide additional resources to complement our own.

It is refreshing that an elite financial guru with clients and readers that have an average net worth of over $2 million dollars focuses on relationships, the core of our human existence. I am certain you will find his post thought provoking!

PS – be certain to check out his earlier posts if you want to see how the nation’s top 2% are responding to the market.