Grow Your Business, Video

The secrets to authentic networking

Early in my career, I was featured in a trade magazine in one of those “30 under 30 people to watch.” On the one hand, I was very proud of it. And on the other hand, I was a bit embarrassed.

The piece about me was titled “Strategic Schmoozer,” which implies more fluff than substance. And that I might have a secret, somewhat sleazy agenda.

The “Schmoozer” incident made me sensitive to the idea that all networking is a little tacky. The truth is, networking is critical to your business success. And it can improve your personal life as well.

Thanks to an authentic, thoughtful approach to networking, my relationships have evolved into something much deeper. And this is probably the most rewarding part of my daily life.

It’s a major reason why I was able to put together an all-star roster of speakers — including Dan Kennedy, Gary Bencivenga, Greg Renker, Jay Abraham, Perry Marshall, and Joe Sugarman and many more — for The Titans of Direct Response event I put on in 2014.

On stage with the Titans of Direct Response.

And why I was able to recruit over 30 members to my mastermind without much sales and marketing.

“Networking” may be the most overused term in the business world today. And with 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 or LinkedIn is not how you forge connections that are valuable to everyone.

I would like to share some observations (and techniques) I use to establish real connections with people. They not only lead to business success, but also to much richer relationships in your life.

Stand out by doing what nobody else is doing

Not too long 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. Then I asked:

“How many of you actually send a handwritten card, letter, or a formal business letter as a follow up?”

Then I explained how you actually do that using something 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. In fact, I was just happy to see ANY hands.

Finally, I asked:

“And how many of you look for areas of common interest with the person interviewing you — whether it’s an author, magazine, or hobby — and then mention it in your follow up?”

For example, I showed how they could send 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…”

This story teaches a lesson that applies to anyone in business: You can find common ground and connect at more than just a superficial, transactional level. I call it contributing to connect.

An example of a “nice note” from my mentor, Marty Edelston.

My mentor, Marty Edelston, also taught me the value of doing this with “nice notes.”

Rather than sending a Christmas card during Christmas like everyone else, you can send “nice notes” all year round to the people in your life, as the mood hits you. Again, these are just handwritten notes in envelopes with clippings or articles, books, or anything you think the other person might find interesting.

And there is no “humbug” in that statement. Send the Christmas cards too, if you’d like.

My point is that you can take a few extra minutes to do what nobody else is doing. This will make you more memorable and create deeper connections with those in your life.

Use the LinkedIn pile up technique

Just because things like email, Facebook, and LinkedIn have become the norm doesn’t mean they have to make your communication less personal.

I have a technique where I accumulate my LinkedIn requests over a two- or three-week period. Then I create time in my schedule to go through each one, look at the profile, find an area or two of common interest, and see if we share any connections.

Next, I’ll respond with a personal LinkedIn message acknowledging those points. This way, I make sure I can connect with them beyond just another “friend request.”

In fact, I just finished sending over twenty personal messages to folks who recently sent me LinkedIn requests. Some of the folks I’ve heard of, some were people I’ve met, and some were perfect strangers.

It’s important to put something special (and personal) into ALL your communications — a unique touch in order to stick out. Keep in mind that it’s not about sticking out simply for the sake of being different. You want to stick out so that you can create an extra special connection with every human you interact with.

I guarantee you will find this kind of networking far more rewarding.

Get everything you can out of all you’ve got

“Find a mentor” is advice that’s been thrown around so much, it has become a giant cliche. But it’s cliche for a reason — it truly is critical to success.

The most successful people I know have all had mentors at various stages in their career.

But there’s a right and wrong way to go about it. I get emails all the time from people asking me, “Will you be my mentor?” That’s the completely wrong approach. The reality is that you don’t get to choose your mentors, they choose you. Once you recognize this, you’ll be on the right track to getting a mentor.

So, when trying to connect with potential mentors, think about this: What can you offer people so that they’ll want to invest the time and energy to help advance your career?

This is how you get everything you can out of all you’ve got and build your career from the ground up.

To help you out, I’ve put together a video on a 3-step technique you can use to figure this out. I personally used it to get mentorship from Dick Benson, a pioneer in direct marketing, and Gene Schwartz, one of the greatest copywriters ever to live.

Click below to watch the 3-step technique:

And don’t forget that mentorship comes in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to have a one-on-one conversation with someone in order to learn from them. You can also read their books, articles, and blogs.

My friend Dan Kennedy — a marketing consultant and author of the No B.S. series — once said, “Rich people have big libraries, poor people have big TVs.”

That’s because, dollar-for-dollar, books are the best way to invest in yourself. For a couple bucks (or free if you take my advice and go to the library) you can absorb someone’s life’s work in one sitting.

Build your network, and build a rewarding life

These are just suggestions, and you can put your own personality and ingenuity into how you contribute and then connect. But after reading this, I hope you realize there’s nothing fulfilling about being a strategic schmoozer.

Once you discover how to contribute to connect, you won’t want to have it any other way.

Let me know in the comments: Which one of these techniques can you put into use today?

Brian recently co-authored a book, The Advertising Solution: Influence Prospects, Multiply Sales, and Promote Your Brand. He has a special offer for GrowthLab readers that’s not available in stores. It includes:

  • The $100 Million Swipe File — Promotions from six of the most legendary admen and copywriters of our time that have done hundreds of millions in sales.
  • A collection of rare videos — Watch these lost, classic presentations from Gary Halbert, Gene Schwartz, and David Ogilvy.
  • Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins — Unlike other versions, this one is illustrated and annotated.

The value of these resources is priceless, but you can get them free by following instructions here.

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There Are 9 Comments


Do you find the Titans of Direct Response picture to appear antiquated? If not, perhaps you don’t realize what you’re missing…

This is a really wonderful message you’ve just shared with us. I particularly love Brian’s interview where he talks about how to create value for others first. I have a mentoring program for high school students, and one of the first things we talk about is how to find a mentor specific to their area of interest. One of the major things I talk with them about it is what kind of value they can offer the people they look up to. After all, few people enjoy being asked to do something for some else if the other person does nothing in return. It just goes against the basic human instinct for reciprocity. But even as I teach this, I myself saw through the interview how much more I can be doing to cultivate my own connections and relationships. I can see how much thought and creativity is required if I really want to surround myself with people I genuinely admire. Thanks for taking the time to share this message. Really fantastic.

I like the idea of being genuinely interested in people (everyone is uniquely interesting). I think the suggestions you’ve made stem from that core premise. Being more interested in people and more committed to helping people out in whatever way I can….most times without a view to “network” even, has really helped me develop stronger bonds with people in my personal and professional life.

The photo (together with a long list of names) is of men. Only men. No women. And from what I can tell, only white men. It is interesting that this article is about making better connections. Should we only connect with white men? Should points of connection be primarily along color/gender lines? And didn’t you say at the outset that we should endeavor to do what no-one else does? White guys hanging with white guys seems to be a way of closing a network rather than expanding it. Maybe that is the intent…

I think you may be missing a point here Rachel. People tend to gravitate towards each other based along many lines, but in this case I think something interesting happened. When Brian Kutz reached out to all of the individuals in the manner that he talked about, I’m pretty sure that there were probably not that many minorities or women in that shared space of interest(s). Or it could just have been the case that there were those kinds of people present in the areas where he was 1)Seeking help or 2)Giving value.

That being said I think if you’re focusing on the lack of diversity here and not the message he’s talking about you’re losing an opportunity to learn something. I know that when I get around to practicing the kind of networking that’s being discussed here I’m certainly not going to be thinking about the race of the other individuals unless the person I’m reaching out to has experienced the unique perspective of being black in America. But that’s just one bit of common ground among many that I could choose from.

One thing that I know I struggle with that I know I’m going to have to overcome is the fact that I really don’t have a good idea regarding my strengths and assets. Perhaps its due to years of living in poverty and having low self-esteem or some other factors (mental scripts maybe?), but it really is a challenge for me to figure out what kind of value I can actually bring to people. I feel like I’m a jack-of-all-trades in so many respects and very little/next to no skills that people could potentially need. I KNOW I do have them, but it’s very difficult for me to acknowledge them. I think when I next get the chance I’m going to actually sit down and try to do an exercise to get all of that information out in the open.

Davonte, The book and diagnostic quiz, “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath should help you a lot.

I just completed a mastermind in New Orleans that worked on identifying core strengths, talents and assets. The process started by asking friends and close associates the following question, “What is one thing you think I’m really good at or what is one characteristic of my personality makes me stand out in a good way from other people?” I did this with an email and in person. It’s recommended to get responses from 8-20 individuals.

Then collate all the responses, grouping similar items looking for patterns like: High IQ, Intelligent, Smart, etc. all refer to the same basic thing. Another example: sharing, giving, helpful, etc.

Next, pick a key word or phrase that sums up the essence of each pattern for you. There might be several main patterns. For each pattern answer the following two questions:

“When someone says the I’m _______, what I’m really doing is _______, and the reason why I do it is __________.”

Identify three words or phrases from the two “doing” answers above, and three words or phrases from the “reasons” answer field above. Condense and combine their essence to ONE statement of the form:

“I DO (substitute the key essence you’ve found) in order to REASON.” This is your Core Talent you offer the world. Be specific. Wordsmith the final statement to fit you. You don’t have to have it fit the sentence format above but you get the idea. If you’re a blogger or author It could be something like, “I deeply research ideas that interest me in order to then share them with the world.” Or, if you play the role of peacemaker in your family or business life, “I seek the commonalities we all share in order to bring harmony to others.”

The talent you identify should resonate deeply with you, and if you read it to someone else it should bring a reaction from them where they sit up and look at you with a surprised smile of recognition that you’ve shared something deep and authentic about yourself.

I think it is hard to claim that you are a mastermind of networking when you can only collect contacts of similar age, sex, race, and interests as yourself. In a broader context, it is important to consider the reason their are no women in those “shared spaces of interest”, and not just assume, as you did, that that there are absolutely zero women interested in similar items. Perhaps, more realistically, women are not represented because they have not been let into “the club” just yet. They have not even been considered, in fact they have been dismissed (as you just did). So yes, it is important to consider the diversity of your contacts, because otherwise, you can, as you state “gravitate towards others” only like yourself and inadvertantly ignore a large part of the population that could make valuable contributions.

You really made me think about the last time I sent a letter. I don’t even keep friends addresses in a book anymore! I have received some special envelopes over the years just as you talk about and have never given back.

I will change that, beginning this week. Thanks for pointing out (what should be) the obvious!

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