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?