Why Network

Social NetworkI am often asked “Why should I network” during training sessions on Networking.  It is a simple question with an answer that can change the way you interact with others and the way you live your life.  Below is a summary of my answer, the powerful truth of why you should network…

“Networking is about you, not about a company.  If you are a project manger, the projects you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an engineer, the designs you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an accountant, the money you work with better stay here when you leave.  However, one of the few things that you will take with you (and that your company will loose) is your relationships, also known as your network.  Due to this, your network will be and is one of your most powerful tools.  Let’s look at two extremes as an example of how networking plays a role in everyone’s career:

Last Laid-off

Time and time again strong networkers are spared during layoffs, not because they are top performers, but because they have something many top performers don’t have.  Take this example:

An executive in the midst of an economic downturn was faced with a problem: he had to lay off one of two people:  The first was an incredible performer with a knack for completing projects on time and without errors.  The second was a good performer with a network of relationships that was bringing in over $1 million dollars of work into the company.  Who was laid-off?  Time and time again we see that most executives will protect the welfare of the company by keeping a good performer that can bring work in the door over an incredible performer that isn’t bringing in work. 

Think about it, who would you lay-off?

First Promoted

Your network not only protects you, it also reminds management who they want to keep around.  Because of this top networkers are also regularly the first promoted.  Take my story:

I have been in the construction industry for less than a decade.  I am honored to work with great friends (that’s right, most everyone in my network I consider a true friend) that I am blessed to be able to help.  Because I help them to be successful my friends take my calls and regularly work to help me in return.  As a result, my network of friends have helped me win hundreds of large projects for my company (Thank you very much!) and opportunities have opened that resulted in several major lateral moves during my career.

If you want to advance your career, do everything in your power to bring work, solutions, and answers into your company.  The most effective way to do this is through Networking: Continually helping others and building a close group of friends to whom you purposefully focus your help.  I know that my company would survive without me, but I have the satisfaction that I am doing everything in my power to make our company succeed.  When you try to live your life to help others and your company, you are learning how to build a successful life!”

The Washington Post vs. Bisnow

capitol-with-treesIn an effort to reduce cost, the Washington Post recently made the decision to eliminate its business section. I must admit that I didn’t think this was a big deal until I received a note from Bisnow.com, a free Washington DC digital (e-mail) publication. The note stated that Bisnow is going to begin providing Business Section coverage through a new digital publication: Daily Bisnow! Did you catch that, a three year old digital publication is beating out an industry leader (the Washington Post)!

What Happened

Bisnow is part of the future, where information is free and value is created by giving away what you know. Who wants to pay for a newspaper when the information can be accessed instantly and deciphered whenever and however you want it? This business model allows companies to thrive by giving information away rather than charging for it. In turn the captive audience becomes a magnet for companies that can benefit from advertising. (If you don’t believe me think about how much you didn’t pay to search Google this past month.)

Are you ready?

What about your business? Most probably you can’t go to the extreme of giving away everything, but what about helping others and by doing so building strong relationships. You can choose to hold your contacts, information, and resources close, or you can choose to open your resources as a path to help others succeed. In doing so, you likewise will find yourself achieving your personal goals.

Here is the note I received from Bisnow:

We are saddened by the demise of the separate Washington Post business section. It’s a great newspaper, and many of us continue to subscribe.

But we think business news is too important, especially today, to relegate to inside pages. 

We want to try to do something about it.

Starting this week, we’re launching a Daily Bisnow (Washington). Although we’re excited to have become the best read local business publication, this new e-mail will be about both national and local business.  

Of course, we’ll do it in our style:

  • Free
  • Fun
  • All-electronic
  • Lots of pictures
  • Lots of personalities
  • Mercifully short

So that your Inbox is not clogged, we’re going to pull back on the frequency of our other publications. Also, we’ll publish Daily Bisnow in the morning, and reserve the afternoon for our more specialized publications: Legal, Tech, Trade Association, Medical, Commercial Real Estate, and The Scene.

We are now 16 employees, but still small enough to care about each reader. If you have comments about our new publication, pro or con, write our publisher directly: Mark@Bisnow.com. He doesn’t have an unlisted number, at least yet.

Or come visit our office on Connecticut Ave. and play ping pong with us.

Recession Marketing

How we respond to a recession dictates our success (or failure) not only during, but more importantly after, the market downturn. Companies that can hold their ground through a downturn often become market leaders afterward.

In hard times businesses often look to eliminate expenses, but what about marketing expenses? If a marketing department is properly functioning there should be a direct correlation between our marketing budget and our accounts receivable. Based on this we would all agree that cutting the marketing budget would be a poor idea in a recession. What recessions often remind us, however, is that the expenses of many marketing departments do not have a direct correlation to our accounts receivable. Often marketing departments focus on producing glossy brochures and professional websites that do not necessarily function to support the bottom line.

Refining and Reshaping Marketing
This said, down turns in the economy are not the time to cut our marketing budgets; rather it is the time to refine and reshape our marketing expenditures to truly focus on bringing work in the door. This refining and reshaping should yield an increase in the return on our marketing investment dollars, increasing the correlation between those expenditures and our accounts receivable.  Here are some common changes that you can evaluate to achieve this goal:

  1. Increase your advertising dollars instead of giving your website a facelift.
  2. Incentivize your sales staff instead of getting more mugs with your logo on them.
  3. Cross-train a key person on your marketing staff to provide business development support instead of redesigning your company logo.
  4. Target some new relationships before RFPs and proposals come out instead of using the shotgun approach to pursue proposals (pursing RFPs and proposals that you have no business pursuing).

The Common Recession Mistake
Some functions/expenses of marketing can, and should, be put aside during a recession so that those funds can be spent on marketing functions that are more effective at bringing work in the door. A common mistake during a market downturn is to eliminate the ‘extra’ marketing expenses, but failing to redirect the money towards marketing that will enable you to compete in the highly competitive recession market.

What to do
A recession is the perfect time to sit down with the head of your marketing department to reshape your marketing approach.  Focusing on the marketing functions and expenses can help support your bottom line.

A Last Note
So, why are firms that market heavily during a recession positioned to succeed post-recession? Because people are our most valuable assets, and providing them a place of security during a recession ensures that your best employees will be around as the market picks up momentum. Also, a recession provides a great opportunity to hire the best and brightest from your competition if you are able to keep your bottom line intact. After the recession you then have a foundation for growth and the ability to become a market leader.

Event Promotion (Increasing Event Attendance)

peoplesilhouetteLindsay Hilton with the SMPS Southeast Louisiana Chapter recently sent me this e-mail about event promotion:

“I am a board member of a small SMPS chapter (Southeast La., established last year) that is struggling to engage members to attend our events… Do you have any advice on how to entice our membership to come out to our events? For example, we try to host bimonthly social mixers at popular locations but the last mixer only turned out about six people. We also hold monthly luncheons with informative guest speakers from all over the country. This month’s guest is Randle Pollack. Even our luncheons produce meager results (about 20 guests attend). Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!”

I can’t say that I am an expert on events, but I shared with Lindsay my experience. I hope that you find it beneficial as well:

Thanks for the e-mail! I have likewise struggled previously to build strong attendance at programs and finally identified a couple of keys that have helped build the SMPS DC chapter lunch programs and the Design and Construction Network. They might not fit what you are doing perfectly, but they should give you some ideas. Here they are:

Provide a massive amount of value

  • Ensure that you have great speakers (I know you are already doing this in that you have Randy Pollock speaking, he is one of the best marketers in the industry).
  • Build programs that provide immediate value. For example, SMPS DC has an annual University program that brings in the Facilities Directors from all the local universities. The moment we invited our clients to speak, the principals from our firms started showing up to meet with the clients. Also, we asked them to talk about what jobs they have lined up this year so that everyone knows what is coming down the pipeline.
  • Make certain that the entire event is designed around great networking. Probably the greatest value that people get from attending programs isn’t the speaker, it is the networking. Thus make certain it is painless to network at your events. Also, consider trying to get people to attend that others would want to network with.

 Leverage WOM and viral marketing

  • Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing has been the single most effective tool for increasing attendance that I have seen. Instead of just sending out blast e-mails about an event (which you should still do) build a group of people that are responsible to invite people during the course of regular conversations. So, if you send an e-mail to a friend that might benefit from attending ask if they are going to be at the program and let them know that you are going to be there.
  • Viral marketing is the art of building hype about an event. Although much more difficult to achieve (I have not yet been able to make it happen for our SMPS lunch programs) it was what made the first Design and Construction Network happy hour a success. Viral marketing excites people and builds a buzz about the event.

I hope that helps! Please note that I am not the expert on this, but it is fun to leverage our marketing backgrounds to solve problems!

Business Strategy: New Business Lines

Field_SkyDeveloping and introducing a New Business Line is nothing less than a daunting task. The good news is that many have gone before us, providing us with decades of exhaustive trial and error research that can help to identify successful approaches to establishing new business lines in existing companies.

I have found three common variables associated with business lines that have launched successfully: 

Three keys that lead to success in Developing and Introducing a New Business Line: 

  • The least expensive/most efficient way to bring a new service or product to market is almost always to target your existing clientele.
  • New service offerings that are similar to or an offshoot of your existing services increase their success rate and provide a shorter duration to profitability.
  • The best predictor of success is implementing demand-driven business lines that solve existing problems.

Setting Team Rules

Building BlocksOur department works on a simple set of team rules that ensure credibility and respect are maintained in our team. These rules were adapted from the ground rules teachers used at Ivymount School when my wife was on staff. Ivymount is a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence that serves students with serious developmental delays, learning disabilities, communication disorders, autism, and/or multiple handicaps.

The teachers at Ivymount run some of the most effective and efficient teams you can imagine. They put themselves aside daily for the betterment of others, a testament to what makes a successful team. Rick Milter of the Carey School of Business likes to refer to these teams as ‘High Performance Teams’. I hope that you find these rules as beneficial for your team as I have for mine:

What is expected from a TEAM LEADER

  • The Team Leader will regularly sit down as a team and develop SMART goals with the team, developing Individual Responsibilities with Group Accountability
  • The Team Leader will ensure the team has full support to achieve its goals, obtaining help when needed and taking responsibility when things go wrong
  • The Team Leader will address team members directly regarding any interpersonal issues and/or problems
  • The Team Leader will work hard to have fun, and to make certain the team members feel accomplished every day

What is expected from TEAM MEMBERS

  • The Team Members are expected to share ideas openly and be prepared to follow through
  • The Team Members are expected to address team members directly and immediately regarding any interpersonal issues and/or problems. (That’s right, no going to the team leader unless it can’t be solved)
  • The Team Members agree to never “bad mouth” another team member
  • The Team Members will work hard to enjoy what they do and have fun

Why Cofebuz and some incredible links

treeandfieldIn an effort to explain what Cofebuz is all about I have recently added the following description to the sidebar here at Cofebuz.com: Relationships are the foundation of success in business and in life. Cofebuz is dedicated to creating and maintaining the relationships that build companies and individuals. 

It is my hope that through Cofebuz you will gain insight into building networks and relationships that create success in business and in life. Oftentimes this takes the form of writing on marketing or networking, but it can also take the form of discussing challenges and ways to overcome those challenges. In addition it is my personal goal to build relationships with each of you; I do this by working to provide you with help and insight during the time you spend reading Cofebuz. 

On that note, this past week there has been a plethora of great information that I am certain you will find helpful. Here are the links and information: 

  1. The Stimulus Bill, Sector by Sector – This is a great summary of the economic stimulus package that congress is working on that was sent to me by Matt Handal of Trauner Consulting Services.
  2. LinkedIn for A/E Professionals? – This article by Mel Lester of The Business Edge provides a great overview for those that are just getting into, or are interested in getting into, online networking. While it is written for the design and construction industry, many others will benefit from his clearly defined outline of the benefits and downfalls of online networking.
  3. Proposals… and proposals – What do you do when your marketing staff needs technical help, but the technical staff tends to ignore proposal deadlines? Some experts weigh in on Mark Buckshon’s Construction Marketing Ideas website.

Logos after the financial crisis

With the recent financial crisis several companies have been redesigning their logos in an effort to better reflect their current status. I wanted to share them with you to help provide some perspective this week. 

http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js

dell 

dowjones

ferrari

fiasco

ford

goodyear

lg

nike1

nokia

pleasebuy

3m

xerox

yahoo

citi

crisisler

Note: I have been unable to identify an original source for these files. If you are the source or can confirm the source please provide a comment so I can give credit where credit is due.

http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js

Cost vs. Value Based Services

meninfieldI received a call the other day from LaShae, the owner of a small service business that was looking for some advice on marketing at her company. There was an air of frustration in her voice regarding the effectiveness of recent marketing campaigns which included an ineffective post card mailing, a series of cold calls to potential clients that to date have resulted in dead ends, and a recent website optimization. Everything that she shared with me has been part of successful marketing campaigns at other companies so why wasn’t it proving to be effective at hers? I believe that there are two primary reasons why:

You must combine marketing activities to multiply effectiveness

Everything you do in marketing has a hit ratio; that is, the number of desired responses you receive as a result of your efforts. From post card mailings that result in return phone calls .03 to .06% of the time (3 to 6 return calls for every 1000 cards mailed) to true cold calls that result in future direct communication 2 to 5% of the time. (2 to 5 meetings for every 100 phone calls). The key to building a successful marketing campaign is to combine (multiply) several approaches together with a concentrated group of people. The example I gave LaShae during our conversation was the same approach I identified in “Warming up a cold contact.” The key to this approach combining a series of events to effectively multiply the hit ratios together (2 x 3 x 4 = 24% hit ratio) instead of simply sending out independent campaigns that result in adding your effectiveness together (2 + 3 + 4 = 9%). This traditional method of marketing is a relatively expensive way to drum up new work, but it is effective. In the case of LaShae’s business there needs to be a cohesive link between marketing activities to increase their effectiveness and return a cost effective return on investment for the company.

A value based service industry approach

LaShae’s business provides a “value based service” to clients. Let me explain: services are sold based on both value and cost. Services that can be differentiated from others in the industry are chosen more based on value than cost, while services that are very similar to that which other firms provide are more often based on cost.  Since the services that LaShae’s company offers are value based, she needs to focus her marketing on helping others see her value. The most effective way for a small company to do this is through building credibility in relationships. Note that the warming up a cold contact model above simply follows the Relationship Development Process. A less expensive way to build these relationships is networking. Proper networking yields referrals and introductions that pre-qualify your value before you begin a relationship! Instead of spending hours developing mailing lists, post cards, and making cold calls, your network can provide you with a wealth of potential clients from 3rdparties (people that gain no direct benefit from giving the referral). By using referrals instead of direct sales your potential clients will feel that you have been pre-qualified as one of the best in the area at providing your services.

Cost vs. Value Based Services

Think about your company, are you are providing a value based service (differentiated such as an elite health care architect) or a cost based service (providing a service that is very similar to your competition such as a roofing contractor)? If you identify that you are providing a value based service instead of a cost based service check to see if your marketing approach helps walk potential clients through the relationship development process and ensure that your clients are viewing you as a value based firm. If you provide a cost based service and want to build your profitability, think about ways to differentiate yourself in the market to enable your firm to become a value based service company.

16 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School

sunriseIf you have ever checked out the blogroll here at cofebuz.com you have probably been to Henrik Edberg’s The Positivity Blog. I like to think of his blog as a motivational blog, while I consider cofebuz a business blog. Henrik continually comes up with some great material that I highly recommend reading. One of his “most popular posts of 2008” was the blog 16 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School. As I read through the list one of these “things” caught my attention:

#4 – First, give value. Then, get value. Not the other way around.

“This is a bit of a counter-intuitive thing. There is often an idea that someone should give us something or do something for us before we give back. The problem is just that a lot of people think that way. And so far less than possible is given either way.

If you want to increase the value you receive (money, love, kindness, opportunities etc.) you have to increase the value you give. Because over time you pretty much get what you give. It would perhaps be nice to get something for nothing. But that seldom happens.”

I find it interesting that Henrik captures the essence of what we regularly discuss when it comes to success in business. I believe that this is due to the fact that it is impossible to separate relationships and business. In the past I have struggled with an “It’s Just Business” philosophy only to realize later that there is no such thing as “Just Business.” Take a moment to read the other 16 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School, it is a great read!