The Introvert’s Secret to Networking

I am excited to announce that on Tuesday November 17th I will be presenting a new seminar entitled “The Introvert’s Secret to Networking” at a national webinar for the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). If you are interested in attending or would just like to find out more about this new presentation you can check it out on the SMPS national website

As always, my goal is to help others (introverts and extroverts alike) to build great relationships that improve their businesses and lives. I hope that you will be able to join me for this webinar or at a future seminar.

Tim Klabunde

Leveraging your marketing dollar

iswm_logoThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published by the International Society of Weighing & Measuring.

“It’s not that I am cheep, it is just that I like getting a lot of value for my money.” 

I believe many people feel this way when it comes to their marketing budget.  We all want to figure out what is going to give us value when it comes to getting work in the door.  To that end here is a list of the three “cheapest” ways to get more work.

  1. Existing Clients – Ever wonder why the cable company is always trying to up sell you a 100-movie channel package?  It is because the least expensive way to bring in more revenue is to expand service to your existing clients.  This same model is utilized in almost all service industries.  So when you are looking to get more work in the door start by trying to solve more of your current clients problems first. 
  2. Referrals – When I had the siding redone on my home this last year I received 3 quotes for the job.  The most expensive was a national company, the least expensive was a company I saw on a yard sign in our neighborhood, and the middle bid was a referral from a trusted friend that had their siding redone a couple of years prior.  I paid the extra money for the middle quote because I felt comfortable and trusted the advise of my friend.  Did you catch that? The referral transferred the trust that I had in my friend into the company she endorsed!  Firms that use referrals make more money and their clients begin the relationship with confidence in their ability to do the job right.
  3. New Relationships – Note that I didn’t say clients I said relationships. Clients are expensive to get, but a network is not.  Networks of relationships in your industry allow others to provide you with leads that you can follow up on for minimal cost.  Here are some examples: the attorney that passes along leads to an accountant; the brink layer that that tells the roofer what projects he’s working on; the civil engineer that tells the architect which developers are considering building on a piece of land.  Your network can provide leads must faster and for less expensive than trying to find them yourself.

Time and time again I note that it is people that provide the biggest return on our marketing investment dollar.  Whatever you do, however, don’t give up on your advertising budget.  Advertising, networking, press releases, etc… are each only one tool in your marketing toolbox.  Every marketing tool has its place and must be used appropriately in order to achieve true marketing success.

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?

Great Networkers tell Great Stories

When you meet someone for the first time, you have about 45 seconds to identify an area of mutual interest in order to avoid an awkward end to your conversation. Most people start by looking to their titles and companies: “I’m Tim Klabunde with Gordon, what is your name…” They then expand the circle looking for a connection “John Adams from my office used to work for your company, do you know him?” Great networkers know and use a better approach. Instead of following a linear path to identify connections, they tell stories.

1,000 possible points of connection
Everyone knows that a story paints a picture, and that a picture is worth 1,000 words. What most people have not discovered is that the 1,000 words painted by a story, become just as many possible points of connection for a conversation.

What it looks like
A good story should be about 15 to 25 seconds and it should be current. For me, I often talk about my boy’s recent escapades, current events, or my day at the office. For example, if I tell you a story about my boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain, I have instantly opened dozens of possible points of conversation:

  • My/your family
  • My/your children
  • Plumbing repairs
  • The things you did when you were little (So you ended up in the ER after swallowing coins?)
  • Stage of life conversations
  • Other funny kid stories (Your kids flushed your jewelry down the toilet?)
  • Questions about my story

The point is that the more possible points of intersection we can develop the easier it becomes for us to engage in conversation and thus a new relationship.

Keep it simple
To be effective stories should be simple. In my example above I painted an entire picture for you in 8 words: “My boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain.” Yes, I left a lot up to your imagination, but that only opens the door to conversation, which is a foundation for networking.

Come prepared
Next time you are in the car on the way to a meeting take a moment to think up three stories: one about work, one about family, and one about current events. If you need, practice consolidating them into 15 second sound bits. Then, sit back and enjoy hours of great conversation. Just watch out, you might find that you actually enjoy networking!

 Special thanks to a great networker, Joanna Hoffschneider of Structure Tone, for inspiring today’s blog.

Something about all of us

business-relationshipsToday the Design and Construction Network will break 1,800 members, our expansion into Philadelphia for the next networking event is already exceeding expectations, and to date over 500 people that have attended our networking events in Washington DC. It leaves me wondering how it is that the network has experienced such incredible growth.

Something about all of us

I am not alone when I say that, when it comes down to it, I just want to be myself. I want to laugh with friends, experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than I left it. I have found more value in relationships than in money, and more monetary profit in building friendships than in making a sale.

Actually, not only do I think I am not alone in these thoughts, I believe that I am in the majority. Yet somehow in business many of us seem to have gotten off track; we have traded relationships for things of lesser value.  We often know that the best results are found in the long-term, but find it difficult when we see the immediate results of others that are focused on short-term success.

Back to the network, back to you.

The Design and Construction Network isn’t a success because of me, it is a success because of great people like Mark Buckshon, Matt Handal, Melissa Allen, Deborah Hayward, Kevin Smith, (the list truly goes on and on) that believe in building long-term relationships, not just creating value for themselves (note that I did not exclude it being of value for them also, I personally believe and hope that each of these people receive a ten fold return from the network). They are great people that simply want to be themselves, to help others, and to laugh with friends. Success is being born simply by bringing these types of people together and building positive momentum towards a shared goal of building relationships.

Your turn

This week it is your turn, to be yourself. To get back to the passions that brought you to where you are at today, to laugh with friends this week, to experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than you left it. I hope this week that you experience the long-term gain of helping your friends and building some new relationships.