Are “Degrees of Separation” Important to Networking?

Posted on March 30, 2017 at 5:53 PM Comments comments (8)
In the early 90’s three Pennsylvania college boys with too much time on their hands decided that every actor living or dead could be linked to Kevin Bacon.  Although never a big box office draw, Bacon has been in a significant number of films and the boys discovered that if you use Bacon as an end point, you can link him in six degrees or less to almost any other performer.  So, from that humble beginning The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon was born.
For example, Alfred Hitchcock and Elvis Presley can both be linked to Kevin Bacon.

Just for fun let’s imagine that Kevin Bacon is an open networker and all the actors in this example are currently living. Kevin would like to add to his suspense and psychological thriller genres and believes Alfred Hitchcock could be just the ticket.

Kevin Bacon contacts Jack Nicholson:

Jack, I hope all well!  Hey, I really enjoyed working with you on “A Few Good Men.”

I wanted to reach out to you and see if you could help with an introduction to Alfred Hitchcock. I know you are not directly connected to Alfred, but you were in “A Safe Place” with Orson Wells.

And Orson Wells was in “Show Business at War” with Mr. Hitchcock.

Based on those common connections, could I ask you to pass along my request?
Jack Nicholson replies to Kevin Bacon:
Kevin, you can’t handle the truth! “A Safe Place” was a critical and box-office disaster!  In fact, Time magazine called the film "pretentious and confusing.”
Wow, sorry to hear that.  But can I depend on you to sell my introduction to Mr. Hitchcock through Mr. Wells?
Son we live in a world that has walls, social capital walls, “what’s in it for me” walls.  But OK Kevin, I’ll do you a big favor, but I’m not making any promises.

Jack Nicholson contacts Orson Wells:

Orson, I hope all is well!  Hey, it’s been awhile since we worked together on “A Safe Place,” but I’ve got this young friend who would like to meet Alfred Hitchcock.  I noticed you and Alfred worked together on “Show Business at War.”  Would you be open to making that introduction?
Orson’s reply to Jack:
Jack, I had completely forgotten we worked together.  In fact, I almost deleted your message without even reading it.  You see, I’ve tried to erase the “A Safe Place” experience from my mind because it was such a disaster.  Concerning your request, no I can’t help.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable reaching out to Mr. Hitchcock.  You see “Show Business at War” was a short film, only 17 minutes in length.  It was sponsored by Time Inc. in 1943 to tout the United States film industry’s contribution to the Second World War effort.  And the fact of the matter is that I never personally met Alfred during that brief project.
So what point, conclusions or action steps am I trying to make here?
1. If you are an open networker, and that strategy works for you, keep doing what you are doing.  I would never order a “code red” on a strategy that is delivering results.

2. If that strategy is not working then order the code red immediately because “The Strength of Weak Ties” theory does not guarantee networking success.
Asking connections of connections for a favor is a difficult tactic to pull off.  In those situations it’s obvious that your focus is completely self-centered, and most people are afraid of being taken advantage of by people they barely know or have no emotional investment in.

How to Engage a Social Media Influencer

Posted on May 4, 2015 at 8:18 AM Comments comments (0)

How many social media blogs and white papers have you read where one of the first points of advice reads:
“Find the key influencers in your space and engage them.”
Finding key influencers is not that hard.  Engaging key influencers is much more difficult than most people realize.  In fact, most social media managers struggle with this task because they have never been trained on how to approach an important influencer.  OK, I can already feel the heat rising from that last statement and you may very well disagree.  Let me explain my B2B point-of-view before you turn on the flames.  First of all, it’s not just social media managers who fumble with the influential.  Most people approach key influencers incorrectly because approaching key influencers is not unlike approaching a key executive decision maker.  So, how many of your employee’s had training specific to the approach of C-level “shark tank” type buyers?  Is your answer zero on the social media marketing team?  Key B2B social media influencers are like top B2B executive level decision makers for the following reasons:
1. They have an audience who listens to them. In many cases that audience is much larger and more loyal than any corporate executive could ever hope for.
2. They have their own point-of-view and agenda. Of course they do.  Did you think they became influential by being a social profile wall flower that only curates other people’s material?
3. They have a healthy ego. That is they are confident in their knowledge and comfortable expressing their own opinion. Don’t try to put your words in their mouth.
4. They are responsible for capital. Social capital and in some cases a real P&L.  Like all top executives they are not going to just hand over a piece of their capital without getting value in return.  So, have you even thought about a “value proposition?”
5. They are human. That means first impressions matter. Yes, they are sizing you up in the first couple of seconds.  It also means they ask themselves “what’s in it for me?” each time you make a request for their time and attention.
6.  It’s personal. It’s always personal; don’t let anyone tell you different.  If you’re using social media automation (auto DM’s, etc.) to get your messages through you’re wasting your time.  They are not going to just pop over and “Like” your Facebook page.  In other words, don’t expect results from your automated “call-to-action” requests.
7.  They are busy. That’s how they became influential.
8.  You must learn to listen with rapt attention. Key influencers like key executives want to be heard and understood.  If your initial communications suggest that you want them to “find out what you do” so you can “see if there is a fit” you are really kidding yourself.  You need to prove you are listening (reading their blogs, tweets, etc.) and engaging with their agenda first.
9.  You must have unlimited energy and patience. You may need to engage them for a very long time before you catch their eye and they start replying to your comments.  This rapport building time is necessary and cannot be avoided.
10. Do not think in terms of “closing” the influencer. Key influencers like key executives do not like to “be closed.”  You want to build a long-term relationship with the influencer and that means working to show them how you are “opening doors,” not closing deals.
There are additional points I could raise, but these are a good start.  Can you change your current mindset in order to work with B2B social media influencers?  Your intern may know how to set up a Facebook page and search for hashtags on Twitter.  But are you providing training on how to swim with the sharks?  You need to because in many cases B2B social media influencers and key B2B executive buyers are one in the same.


How to Establish Business Rapport in 140 Characters or Less

Posted on April 16, 2015 at 10:42 AM Comments comments (37)
In 2002 Nicholas Boothman penned a book titled “How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less.”  Pinterest wasn’t around in 2002, so yes, I mean he is the author.  It was a spin-off from a book he released in 2000 titled “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less.”  In his books Boothman states that research has shown that we have approximately 90 seconds to make a favorable impression when we first meet someone.
“If meeting is the physical coming together of two or more people, then communicating is what we do from the moment we are fully aware of another’s presence.  And between these two events - meeting and communicating - lies the 90-second land of rapport that links them together.”
How quickly can you build rapport with others?  Without rapport, you will not get what you want, but when you have it a lot of opportunities appear.  Obviously Boothman’s works are focused on face-to-face situations because they were written before social media came on the scene.  But I believe many of the suggestions he offered can be applied to the social media world.

1. Rule Number One: When you meet someone, look them in the eye and smile.  Online this means make sure your profile picture is business class.  When you follow someone, or are following back a new connection the first thing they are looking at is your picture.  I don’t want to see a picture of your company logo pasted into the spot where your face belongs.  Also, you might be a fun loving adventurist mountain climber in great shape.  But your end goal is to try and schedule a business meeting with me.  So, is that really the picture you want to use to create my initial impression?  Remember, I’m making a decision in just a couple of seconds on whether or not to take you seriously and at this point of our relationship I don’t care about your personal life.  I care about people who can add value to my day.

2. Rule Number Two: When you want them to feel like they already know you, be a chameleon.  What does a chameleon do?  They instinctively know how to fit in.  Online this means you need to fit into your target markets world and not force them to feel like they need to follow your world.  Here is a suggestion on how to quickly connect with your audience and improve your social graces:
Before: “I hope you enjoy my tweets.”
After: “I’m looking forward to reading your tweets.”
See the difference?  A chameleon makes it about their environment and synchronizes appropriately.  When you adapt to their world they will feel more comfortable and be more inclined to like you.

3. Rule Number Three: Capture the imagination, and you capture the heart.  Online this means your content needs to build trust and fire the imagination.  What does your content look like?  Do your blog posts tell a story?  Or are they guaranteed to induce sleepiness?  Is your Twitter stream engaging, or nothing but “Thank You for Following” messages post after post?

Coercion is about getting people to do what you want them to; persuasion is about getting them to want to do what you want them to do.  Persuasion takes more time.  It requires understanding your target markets needs and desires.  You need to develop trust by building rapport and credibility, and minimizing their risk.  If you’re not getting what you want from your online networking behavior it’s time to change your strategy.



Are You a Social Buzzkill?

Posted on March 31, 2015 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (100)

Imagine that you’re attending a major conference.  It’s time to head over to the networking kick-off session.  You’ve got your business cards in your pocket and your elevator speech is locked and loaded.  You’ve brushed up on current events and read the speakers backgrounds so you are ready to keep the conversation light and engaging.
And then it happens; you run into a social buzzkill.  He’s looking at your name tag now…
“Welcome Alan, thanks for shaking my hand!  Now, if it’s not too much trouble could you get out your smart phone and Like my Facebook page?  While you’re at it take a look at my website, and read my blogs and let me know what you think.  Also, let’s connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.  My company helps marketers get new customers.  Can we schedule a quick 30 minute demo to show you our stuff?”  Just let me know how I can help you! Well, here’s my business card, have a great conference!”
What a buzzkill.  Although, I’ll have to admit; at a face-to-face networking event I’ve never had that kind of greeting.  Why does it feel like a common occurrence when you’re on a social platform?  True networking is a give and take exercise.  I learn about you, and you learn about me.  We explore to see if there might be a mutual benefit.  Here are three signs that you might be a Twitter buzzkill:
1.  Social begging:  OK. It’s not really begging.  But you immediately request your new connections to “Like” your Facebook page, read your blog, or connect on LinkedIn.  You might even do all three through your automated direct message application you are using.  Automation can be helpful, and I understand the “call-to-action” temptation; but you need to turn it off.  You wouldn’t make a frontal attack like that during an initial face-to-face meeting, and you shouldn’t do it on a social platform.
2.  Extreme thankfulness:  Is it possible to be over-the-top with thankfulness?  I graduated from Abilene Christian University and I don’t find it difficult to be thankful for many things.  But I’m still going to put this on the table.  When your Twitter stream is just one long line of “thanks” or “welcomes” to your new followers it gets kind of annoying.  Even more annoying because you are doing it with an automation tool.  Plus, I’m not getting an idea of what real content you can offer.  We get it; you’re excited (and thankful) to be building an audience.  But again, turn off the automation.  When you list me with six or seven new followers all at once, and three of them are bots, it’s not like I really feel special.   Save the thanks and welcomes for key situations. 
3.  Welcome, but no follow:  You probably wouldn’t offer someone your business card, and then refuse to accept theirs.  But that’s what it feels like when you welcome a new follower, but don’t follow them back.  It might be that your follower to follows ratio is out of balance and you can’t follow more profiles just yet.  If that’s the case you need to unfollow someone who hasn’t followed you back yet in order to make room.  Don’t risk losing your new follower by telling them you’ll follow them later.  You’ll forget, or they may unfollow you if you don’t follow them back within a certain period of time.
I’ll get off my high horse now.  After all, it’s not like I’m the Ann Landers of Twitter.  In fact, you may totally disagree with the points above.  I do really like the buzz on Twitter though, and hate to see it killed.

Social Networking Choke Points

Posted on March 29, 2015 at 11:17 AM Comments comments (190)

A choke point is a strategic channel which could be closed or blocked to stop sea traffic.  At the Strait of Gibraltar, where Spain reaches for Morocco, only eight miles separate Africa from Europe.  It’s a strategic location that links the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.  When the world’s economy depended on merchant ships, control of Gibraltar meant control over the flow of products and profits to merchants throughout a large portion of the world.

Have your social networking messages sailed into a choke point?  It’s no secret in today’s relationship economy that your prospect is in control of their Networking Strait.  And that means where rapport reaches for credibility, a value-based relationship is built, and only then can the flow of products and profits begin.  Some relationships appear to be no more than anonymous encounters, lasting only as long as it takes to finish a simple transaction.  Others are the prelude to a full merger of supply and demand chains.  Whatever the duration or objective, strategic relationships generally depend on mutual value and trust.
Why you’re not getting that demo appointment
To enter an Executive Networking Strait you must be prepared to deliver a communication experience that builds rapport, credibility and creates value.  Unfortunately, that’s not what generally happens.  Whether by email, telephone, or through social media, the gist of the initial communication is often the following:

The usual headline or grabber statement
“Quick Question” or “Follow-up” or “Just reaching out”   

Alan,I wanted to reach out because our fully oxygenated, holistic, end-to-end digital marketing solution is revolutionary.  I’d love to get a quick 30 minutes of your time for a demo so you can see the full power and scope of our capabilities.  What time would work best for you? Or is there someone on your team I should be working with?   


Alan,Based on your title and background, I thought our marketing solution would be of interest to you.  Feel free to visit our website to learn more about us.  I’d love to do a quick demo so you can see the features and benefits.  You can go to this (URL here) to schedule a time that works best for you.


Alan,We seem to have several groups and interests in common.  Would you be open to a quick call?  We’re doing some exciting things here and I think our solution would be a good fit.      

I’m a little over-the-top with my examples, but not by much.  Yes, in general you can assume that the CMO has a budget and authority to buy (the B and A of the traditional BANT qualification mechanism).  And according to a Gartner report, by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.  So, of course you want to go straight for a top decision maker, who has dollars to purchase, and jump-start the sales process with an eye popping demonstration.  If the CMO could just see the product in action, they would instantly understand the value and sign the order.  However; I’m going to assume that your days are not completely booked with those types of executive level meetings.

Whether the CMO is managing a global organization, or a start-up, the marketing technology landscape they are facing is large and continues to grow.  Large or small, the CMO doesn’t want to have their time wasted.  So, they’re probably not going to just stroll over to your website to “learn more about” your company.  In addition, they generally don’t open their calendars for total strangers to talk to them about something they are ill-informed about, or currently couldn’t care less about.  In short, you are pushing buttons that turn them off, so it’s no wonder they rarely return your call or reply to your digital invitation.  You want to project yourself as a “thought-leader,” someone who can be trusted.  But at this point the CMO is not thinking of you as a thought-leader nor as a future trusted advisor.  At this point, you are merely another transactional salesperson chasing a quota.
A Roadmap to Navigate the Executive Networking Strait
The networking roadmap appears straight forward, but customer relationships are sometimes messy and emotional.  In addition, customer relationships cannot be microwaved.  If your communication style is based on “always-be-closing,” where every message must contain a “call-to-action,” then social networks may not be the right communication channel for your accelerated time frame.  Remember, your communications need to focus on creating rapport, building credibility and demonstrating value over the long-term: 

·Rapport:  Rapport is the ability to understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.  Without rapport, you will not get what you want - not friends, not demos, not sales.
·Credibility:  Is the quality of being believable.  Its confidence in your competence in the topic or idea you are trying to present. 
·Value:  The relationship creates some form of value that clearly contributes to the fulfillment of the customer’s needs and desires, or helps them mitigate risk. 
Think about those three factors for a minute.  They have a lot in common with a job interview.  Yes, in many ways when you are trying to contact a top decision maker you are on a job interview.  Have you been thinking of that initial contact in that light?

·Making a good first impression:  There is no room for error here.  The executive you are trying to reach is probably going to check you out on LinkedIn first in order to understand your background and credentials.  Does your presence on the major social platforms set a professional tone?  Is the executive likely to view you … not your company and not your solution portfolio … as someone capable of adding value to their day?

·Listen:  This means listening with your full attention.  Read their blogs, review their LinkedIn profile from top to bottom, and follow their posts on Twitter.  Show them you are interested in understanding how they feel by listening with empathy.

·Stop trying to close:  Top executives don’t like “being closed,” or pounced on.  Just because they followed you back on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s time to ask for a short demo to “see if there is a fit.”  In fact, just because they followed you on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s immediately a good time to suggest connecting on LinkedIn.  Yes, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are all social networking platforms.  But connection on one doesn’t equal immediate and automatic connection on all of them.  They probably have a different networking strategy for each platform so you are shooting yourself in the foot by trying to move to fast.  Nurture the relationship before suggesting deeper engagement.