“Networking” may be the most overused term in the business world today…and given the omnipresence of social media, the idea of creating a network is often in the hands of amateurs.
Simply accepting anyone and everyone who sends you a friend request on Facebook, LinkedIn etc. is far from the gold standard…and I would like to share some observations (and techniques) I use to establish real connections with people… which may lead to much richer relationships in your life.
Early in my career, I was featured in a trade magazine in one of those “30 under 30 people to watch” pieces which, on the one hand, I was very proud of; and on the other hand, I was a bit embarrassed.
The piece about me was titled, “Strategic Schmoozer” which to me implies more fluff than substance; and also that there might be a secret agenda when I meet you or add you to my network.
It was that article that made me more sensitive to superficial networking than most…and although my motives were pure then (even though the magazine didn’t know it!), they have evolved into something much bigger today which is probably the most rewarding part of my daily life.
Simply put, I love humanity…and I’ve learned that to truly connect with people you must contribute to them first…with no expectation of a “return.”
My post, “The Power of 100-0,” talked about that at length but let’s take the concept further today.
Ned Hallowell, one of the world’s top experts on ADHD and a brilliant author of close to 20 books (my favorite is called Crazy Busy), sent me a beautiful note two years ago which I treasure.
He sent it in the context of the Titans of Direct Response event I hosted in September of 2014.
He was amazed that we could assemble the roster of all-star speakers we did and he knew doing that was no accident.
Ned had been a regular contributor to the Boardroom newsletters where I worked for many years and he had been a frequent guest at our famous “Boardroom Dinners.”
“You are a master of what this world needs most, and what has been the cornerstone of all my books: the power of connection. I call it the other Vitamin C, Vitamin Connect, and we live in a world where most people suffer from a deficiency of it. Glued to their electronics, they get massive doses of electronic connection, which in no way imparts the life-enhancing, indeed life-saving power of the true Vitamin Connect.”
Ned went on to make sure his compliment didn’t go to my head and I got the real lesson he was teaching me:
“For [true connection] you need face to face, human connection. SO much comes across in what I call the human moment. You absorb vibes of Vitamin Connect without even knowing it. That’s why you always feel better and more refreshed after a positive encounter…and the beauty of it is that it is free, and infinite in supply.”
So yes, face-to-face connection trumps all.
And the most dangerous thing you can do to not get your daily dose of Vitamin Connect is to stare at your computer all day–which Ned calls “screen sucking”.
Although some of that activity can be used for good as opposed to evil too which I shared with Ned on a follow-up email and I will share with you now.
For example, I send out dozens of personal e-mails every week from folks who send me LinkedIn requests…some of the folks I’ve heard of, some are people I’ve met…and some are perfect strangers.
I accumulate my LinkedIn requests over a two or three week period and then I create time in my schedule to go through each one, look at each profile, find an area or two of common interest or a group of people we share, and then I write a personal e-mail acknowledging those synergies to make sure I can get some Vitamin C even while I am …yes…screen sucking.
This philosophy needs to be consistent everywhere in your life in how you “contribute to connect” …and I guarantee that you will find this kind of “networking” far more rewarding than the equivalent of just hitting “accept” without finding out more about the people you come in contact with…online, offline, or even in line at Starbucks.
Sometimes you can’t be that personal…I get that…
Remember, I was responsible for the mailing of probably 2 billion pieces of direct mail in my career…and no, I did not have a personal relationship with every one of those people we mailed to.
But here is what I want to stress:
Don’t connect at a superficial level when connecting at a deeper level will only take a little more effort. It sets you up for a much bigger future with everyone you meet.
Another way to say it: Try to develop a deeper relationship in the long term by not starting with shallow communication at the outset.
You really have to put something special (and personal) into ALL your communications.
And if you start with what you can contribute to the other person first, it always works in terms of getting the maximum amount of Vitamin “C” into your bloodstream.
Read my more recent post, “Christmas cards in July” too…that one takes all of these concepts and gives you tips for how to do “personalized direct mail.”
It’s simple and powerful.
Another way to overdose on Vitamin C (which will not make you ill!) is differentiation:
Do something different to stick out (and not just for the sake of sticking out): Stick out because it really matters to create something extra special with every human you interact with…
A few years ago I spoke to a group of students—recent college grads and seniors—about careers in direct marketing.
I asked them a series of questions:
“How many of you send an e-mail follow up after every job interview?”
Just about everyone raised their hand.
“How many of you actually send a handwritten card or letter or a formal business letter as follow up?”
After I explained how you actually do that…using what I called “pen” and “paper” (and I had visual aids to show them from the podium what each of those items looked like), maybe a third of the room raised their hand…but sadly, I think it was far less than that. I was just happy to see ANY hands.
“And how many of you looked for areas of common interest with the person interviewing you…an author, a magazine, a subject area…and then in your follow up used that (beyond just mentioning something in an e-mail)?”
For example, sending a large envelope (I had a visual aid of that too!) with a handwritten note or letter and maybe an article about something you discussed?
Of course, no one raised their hand.
To which I “whispered loudly” into my microphone:
“If you do something like THAT, no one else will be doing it…and that’s a good thing…and even if you don’t get the job, you will be remembered which is always better than being forgotten…”
I tell this story because this applies to anyone in business…regarding finding common ground and connecting at more than just a superficial level.
And to think about going right when everyone else is going left.
My mentor Marty Edelston also taught me the value of “nice notes”…which in a nutshell, says that rather than send a Christmas card during Christmas with everyone else, send stuff all year round to the people in your life as the mood hits you…and as stuff comes across your desk that would create connection.
That’s what “Christmas cards in July” expands on.
And there is no “humbug” in that statement. Send the cards too if you must…
I think you get the point by now.
Everything I have shared with you today is simply suggestions and tactics you can put your own stamp on. The ingenuity you use how you contribute and then connect needs to be congruent with who you are and what you are comfortable with…but don’t just do what everyone else does.
Bottom line: Get your daily dose of Vitamin C(onnect)…and avoid being a strategic schmoozer at all costs.
Someone once told me that when babies look in a mirror for the first time and are able to see the image of themselves, the assumption is that it’s “another baby.”
It takes a while for them to get the idea that the kid in the mirror is really THEM.
How refreshing is that?
And I can’t help thinking of an image of that baby looking in the mirror for the first time and handing over the “keys to the castle” to that other baby to play with…even if it’s just some plastic keys they just finished salivating and slobbering over.
The “keys to the castle” in this case is what the contribution might be to that “other baby” in the mirror…
To bring this back to direct marketing, my belief is that without a philosophy of “contribution first,” you will not only be less fulfilled personally, but your marketing won’t be as powerful either.
I’m just starting work on my next book and the working title is:
Overdelivery: How Life Imitates Direct Marketing
Overdelivery isn’t even a real word…but to me, it is the result when Vitamin C(onnect) is dominant in your bloodstream.