Katie is the founder of Paper Lime Creative, a branding, and design agency in Edmonton. Her love of design and art took shape and a young age and since then she has been soaking in as much knowledge about art, business, and design as she can. She takes the time to listen to people's unique stories and goals to deliver stand-out work. It's one of many reasons why Paper Lime Creative is known as a collaborative design agency.
What is branding and why is it important?
I define branding as every interaction people have with your business. So there's often a misconception that your logo is your brand, but it's actually a lot more than that. So it's our job at Paper Lime Creative to make sure that those touchpoints that your clients have with your business are impactful and meaningful and get you the right customers to serve.
How does a business owner start that branding process?
We recommend that business owners start that process by figuring out who they want to work with and who that ideal customer is and what that ideal customer is buying so you can put the right time and effort into marketing the right product or service that you have and marketing it to the right people because that's where you'll get the biggest returns on your branding.
How can branding help networking?
Branding can help your networking because it helps you know where to go. I have a great client story for this. I was working with a good friend of mine on really defining her ideal customer. We realized all of her customers were the same type of person, they all dress the same and I joked that I realized that they all have really well-kept beards. So now when she goes to a networking event, she can go and physically find those people. She knows what they look like and chances are they'll be in an industry that she can work with.
So really understanding your customers is important, right?
Absolutely because then she can know what networking events to go to or where to show up online for networking. Like you were talking about LinkedIn in your intro and then to know what people to introduce herself to in those events. It saves you so much time. Obviously building relationships and just growing your network is important, but if you're looking to convert someone to a client from a networking event, knowing who to walk up to and introduce yourself is really important.
Can you share the story behind the name of your business?
I say it's our fresh and fun approach to print design and branding. So my background started in print design and then it evolved into everything else because you can do quite a bit with print design, but you can help your client way more when you understand the brand strategy behind it.
Can you share one of your favorite networking stories or experiences that you've had?
I think my favorite networking experiences are when you realize how small it all is. The six degrees of separation, which I think they're saying is more like three or four. I had one actually where an old friend of mine that I hadn't seen or heard from in years had actually married someone that I was actively networking with. I found out after the fact, which and I was like, "I didn't realize you were married to her!" We worry so much about getting business or meeting people or having to be extroverted and put ourselves out there. But it's all about relationships at the end of the day and I think some of those fun coincidences make life so interesting.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network and your community?
On an ongoing basis, I track who I network with, and be sure to send follow-up emails or book follow-up coffee dates. I think it's just making a part of your regular schedule. I always have some sort of networking event or a one on one coffee booked with someone in my calendar. It's just a part of doing business and I can't imagine a week where there isn't something in there.
What advice would you offer your business professionals who are really looking to grow their network?
I would say try something new. I think we can get really comfortable with what our networking routine looks like and that's great, especially to build those long-term relationships. But to put yourself into a new market or into a new experience can be really valuable. Everyone moving to online meetings because of COVID has been super beneficial from a networking perspective because now you can visit a networking group wherever. I've been to networking groups in Europe while in Canada and it's really limitless now. So I think if you're wanting to grow just try something new. As for me, joining a charity board is something I've never done, but have thought about getting exposed to a new group of people.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I probably would have told my 20-year-old self to network. I didn't start out working till I was 25 or 26. So definitely more of that and I would also tell me to stop doubting myself. I think once you get into your business, you realize that nobody really knows what they're doing. Everyone's learning and growing as they go, and no one's 100% ready for the next step.
You brought up the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you would love to connect with and do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
I have always wanted to meet Paula Scher from Pentagram. She is most well known for designing the Citibank logo and the Boston More Than a Feeling album cover. She's a phenomenal graphic designer, and I totally think I could. I don't know what those six degrees are, but I have emailed her assistant and even though I got a no, it was still a good step. I think my next step would be going through a line of other industry designers because I probably know a designer who knows her and could maybe try that angle.
You have an offer to share with our listeners, right?
I do! On the Paper Lime Creative website piperlime.ca, we have a free brand audit that you can download and it goes through all the different parts of your brand. So it's a great tool to use and we recommend doing it every two or three years. Brands are always growing and changing and it's never a one and done with your brand. So if you want to take a look and review your brand, check out that free download.
Do you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Be yourself and get curious about other people and it all falls into place after that.
Connect with Katie
Claire is a personal brand strategist and the CEO and Co-Founder of Claire Bahn Group. She has been helping high-achieving entrepreneurs, investors, founders, and executives create their best personal brand for over 10 years. As an entrepreneur and influencer with over 70,000 followers on social media, she has learned the importance of creating and maintaining your personal brand. Claire helps entrepreneurs leverage their personal brand to develop the authority, influence, and trust they need to exceed their business goals.
Can you share what personal branding is and why it matters to you so much?
Basically, there are so many different nuances of personal branding. But really your basic personal brand is essentially what people think about you when they do a Google search on you or they meet you for the first time in person. It's literally someone's initial reaction to you, and how they feel about you whether they want to work with you and that sort of thing. So that's your baseline personal brand.
How can entrepreneurs and SMBs boost revenue by showcasing their subject expertise and leveraging their authority?
I always look at personal branding from an aspect like when we sign on a client, we take a strategic approach to personal branding. We look at social media as well as Google, SEO in blogs, and SEO in videos. Because Google and YouTube are search engines, you can find out what people are actively looking for and the type of questions that people are actively asking and wants to know answers for. They want to find experts to help them find a solution to the problem that they're currently having. So ultimately, one of the best possible ways that someone can build that know, like, and trust with an ideal client is to create content, whether it's a long-form blog or a video or both that specifically answers a question that somebody is looking for. So ideally, you want someone to do a Google search on a certain subject, and they find something that you created, and they're like, "Wow, I really liked this person." So many times people find me that exact way because they search a topic that I'm an expert in, and they find a piece of content that I created or video that I created and they're like, "Oh, wow, Claire really knows her stuff." So that's ultimately how you really build ROI, you get customers that are committed and trust you, and value your input. The goal is to hopefully work with them, but trust has to be one and it's not something that everyone gives for free.
For small and medium-sized businesses, is it important to have the individual or the owner of the organization versus building up the brand of the company itself?
People connect with people and people want a connection, especially when you have you know certain younger demographics. They want to know your values, what you stand for and that is done through people. If you think of some of the very well-known, multibillion-dollar corporations, those CEOs branded themselves. Think of Elan Musk! Tesla's cool, but Elon Musk is cooler, if you think about it, right? He has more followers on social media than Tesla does, because when Elon says things it has so much more weight. So if you just think about these real-world examples, you see exactly why it's more important that the person be branded and then they talk about their business because the people are going to have that know, like, and trust factor, not a business.
Why does ignoring personal branding negatively affect your ROI?
If you really think about everything that I've talked about like if someone does a Google search on you, specifically. They're like, okay, who's this person, should I work with them, and there's nothing there, they're definitely not going to want to work with you. You should have some information, especially if you are an expert, which most people that have their own businesses are an expert in something, right? So you kind of wonder why can't I find content about you? What's wrong with you? Then the next part of that is, what if I do find content about you, and it's bad? So this is how can negatively affect you, either not finding any information so people don't believe that you are actually the expert that you say you are or the second thing is that they do find information about you and it's not great information. Whether it's negative information, or you really did not do a good job of creating content that was very helpful, and it negatively impacted what people think about you. You want to put effort into really engaging and answering questions and things that people are actually searching for. It's not one of those things where you can just kind of like punt, and it'll work, you actually really have to put in the effort and answer people's questions. So that's the return is you can help people but it also helps build your business too. But it's a long-term game.
Can you share with our listeners one of the favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I admit that sometimes networking is scary, and I actually did a blog talk giving some tips on how to make it not so scary. But I think ultimately, one of the biggest things is, if there's a group that you are being very strategic with your networking, I would kind of go on to LinkedIn, find who you want to really connect with, and have a way to connect with them. Say something like, "Hey, I read your article on this and I really just wanted to come over and say hi," and have you have your brand statement really quick write your little kind of like blurb about me. I think that's one of the biggest things in making networking easier, especially if there are people that you want to connect with is do your homework first. That's actually one thing that a friend of mine taught me and it's such a valuable thing. If you know there are strategic relationships that you want, go and do a little bit of homework.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships that you have?
Connecting with people on social media, connecting with them on LinkedIn, which is obviously a very professional network. I think you can always nurture the relationship through whether it's inviting them on your podcast, inviting them onto a video podcast. Just staying connected by essentially asking for their input on something. Everyone again, loves a compliment and I think that is a really key thing. Don’t ask for favors, ask for advice on things. Connecting with people like that is really great. I think if you do have a platform, invite them to be on your platform. That is a really great way to stay connected with people and there could be an end game strategy with it, but it doesn't feel and come off as salesy. I definitely don't think it's a good thing to hard-sell people in the social sphere or when you are networking, it's so much better when you just really show up and are committed to sharing your expertise and giving value. The relationships that you create through that are so much stronger than immediately going straight for the sale. I think that would be one of the biggest things. Stay connected, ask for their advice and if you have a platform, bring them onto that platform, but don't sell.
What advice would you offer that business professional is really looking to grow their network?
There are so many networking groups. For me, I've asked friends, and I, you know, asked the group that I know for their advice. Find out from other people, other networking opportunities that they would suggest whether it's in your area in person or online. There are so many events that are online as well, that I have found and you can just ask your network. There are also so many Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups that you can join, you can find out about other networking opportunities in those groups as well. So there are just so many ways to do it, but I don't think it's a bad thing to ask. Just ask people because people want to give their advice. They want to be helped. just asked people to ask your network put out a post saying. So ask your network or you can also just put it out there on social media and a lot of times people will respond, and they'll have great information.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
You talk about this a lot, but networking is so important. So I would say probably more networking, pushing myself to be uncomfortable rather than always staying safe, and not maybe doing that networking event because it's scary. So I think pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing more networking.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
I've kind of liked the way that Rachel Hollis has navigated a lot of stuff. She's definitely gotten herself in some sticky situations over the years, but she's somebody that I what she's done with her personal brand and it's very much evolved. Neil Patel is another marketer who has done great things so I definitely think I could connect with those people through six degrees because I'm in that kind of marketing and influencer space, but those are people that I think are learning kind of more about their story would be really cool.
Any final word of advice you'd like to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
It kind of goes back to even your personal brand. There are so many people like you mentioned, that won't put themselves out there and won't commit to networking with people, they won't commit to doing their personal brand. When you actively do it, and you commit to it and you do it and you show up, you're really going to be in a smaller group of people. I think that's one of the most important things to think about. There are so many people that won't have the follow-through, that won't commit to going all the way with whatever it is whether it's building that personal brand, networking, and committing to so many networking events or opportunities. Just commit and do it! You don't have to bite off the biggest chunk, just find the events that you want and commit to going all-in because so many people don't. That's what's going to differentiate you from somebody else is that follow through and that commitment, and that's a lot of what you said earlier about networking and just being true and following through. It really will benefit you in so many ways.
Connect with Claire
Free Masterclass Course: https://clairebahn.com/personal-branding-masterclass
Paul is popularizing the concept C-com, the science of conversion, conversation, and automation. He founded Amplify C-Com, which helps grow businesses past seven figures through 80% human-like and 20% human experience. Amplify combines human psychology and automation to create more profits in their customers’ pockets.
How do you apply the 80-20 rule to automation?
So we find a lot of the time that people try and automate either 100% or not a bit. So they will go, "Let's automate everything, you know, I want to make everything evergreen so I can sit on a beach and drink pina coladas and not have to do anything." But when you do that you lose that human touch, and especially post-pandemic, people are looking so much more for that personal customer experience that I've been able to speak to a human, but in a way doesn't take up a lot of their time and they can do it in their own time so there's that instant gratification. What we look at is, how would you normally speak if you're having a conversation? So if you would just send in an email to me one on one, Lori, what kinds of things would you say? If you were sending an SMS or a text to someone, how would you usually phrase that? So we write that in the same way as we normally would and then we automate that. So then we automate the start of the conversation and then hand it over to the 20% of human-like experience to guide the people through a more personalized service.
What are embedded commands and why are they so important in marketing?
Embedded commands are all about, starting to plant the seed, so to speak with whatever kind of conversation you've gotten into. Lori, if I was to speak to you, right now, you may be thinking, as I started to say this, you may be thinking of a pink elephant in the corner of the room. Now, as you probably try harder and harder not to think about that pink elephant in the corner of the room, then that image is probably getting more vivid and vivid in your mind. You probably see that pink elephant right now we've got roller skates on as well, can you see that? Well, don't think about that. Whatever you do, Lori, don't think about that. You can't think about it, right?! We start starting to use some of these embedded commands in the way that we write copy. So if you want to guide someone towards a certain direction, then you use some of those language patterns throughout the copy. So for example, if you want to bring up an objection that someone's having, and to be able to handle that objection, rather than like, brisk over it and try and hide it, say you might be thinking right now this or maybe you're thinking this and then you go "Great, now we can crush that objection." So you bring the objection up and then crush it. You may already start seeing yourself achieving that goal. I don't know what it is for you, it might be you want a new car, you might want to move houses, you might just want to spend more time with the family and see yourself go into Disneyland. But whatever that is for you, then you probably know what that is in your mind right now. So you can see if we break down that sentence, for example, you create the future pace in the mind and then adding things like "right now" at the end of it, you're starting to see that in your mind right now. So it's like these hypnotic language patterns that are being used that guide people towards the sale, but you can also do it in a conversational way. For example, another way is not so much of an embedded command, but another language pattern that we use a lot is ask for a no instead of a yes. So I learned this from Chris Voss. Chris Voss is an FBI hostage negotiator and he wrote a book called Never Split The Difference and one of the things he wrote in there was about asking for no. Most people, like if I said, "Hey Lori, would you like to have me on your podcast?" And then you kind of like, they'll say yes, or say no. But if I say, "Hey, Laurie, would you be totally against having me on your podcast?" Then what are you gonna say then? It takes the pressure off when you ask for a no instead of a Yes. Would it be crazy to entertain the idea? Would it be unreasonable to consider? No, it wouldn't be unreasonable to consider. So we use that, "Would you be against?" For example, let's say you want to book a sales call. So you might send an SMS message and say something like, "Would you be against speaking with one of our application specialists?" "No, I wouldn't be against that." "Can you check if this link works?" Then they click the button, and then they go to the next stage, "Yeah, that works." "Great, can you see that on the page?" Then you notice what you do if you're on a sales call, you'd run the same kind of thing from the conversational perspective and you'll notice we're always creating these micro-commitments through the whole process. It's a different psychology behind the language patterns that you use to reduce the ask that you're looking for.
Let's dive into that a little bit from the power of conversational commerce to sell really high ticket items.
When it comes to selling high ticket items, we look at each stage of the customer journey. So when you look at each stage, you go, "Well, where are people dropping off." So a lot of the time people go, I'm not making enough sales. That's a symptom, not a cause. So you have to work backward and break down each stage of the process. So we'll use technology and automation to look at each stage of the pipeline. So we know every time someone pops into a certain stage, for example, let's say they opted in, or they started a challenge, or they watched a webinar or they submit a deposit. So we can see how many people are getting to each stage of the journey, and then work out what we need to do to get more people to that stage. Where are most people dropping off and what level of conversation do we need to have at that point? Can we automate all that? Or do we need to actually add a human element to that as well? So at the start of the journey, quite often, you'll automate more of it. But as you get higher and higher up the price point you might get the owner or a higher level person in the team more involved when it comes to let's say, submitting a 10,000 or $25,000 program. Let's say you've got a lot of people stuck on the pay to deposit, but they haven't paid the full amount. So what's happening at that point? What's happening in the buyer’s mind? Maybe they're having buyer's remorse, maybe they need to get funding together. We don't know without asking. So then you could have, for example, we will have some owners, they'll go and record a personal video message to those people who get to that stage, but don't get to the next stage. So it might take them 30 seconds of video, let's say 10 videos a day which takes five minutes. If that closes one more sale, that five minutes has made them $10,000. So that then becomes a really good return on investment. Looking at each stage of the customer journey, and then understanding how you can add conversation at every point to guide people to the next step of the journey. It's like Martin Luther King said, "You don't need to see the whole staircase, you just need to take the first step," and we kind of rephrase that a little bit is "You don't need to see the whole staircase, you just need to take someone to the next step."
Can you share with our listeners one of your most favorite or successful networking experiences that you've had?
So I always say this kind of catalysts that happen over time, right? So one of the things that we used to do was just doing Facebook Messenger, when there wasn't loads of compliance around it. So at that point, I'd get people on a Facebook Live Show and I build them a bot for free on Facebook Live. So we do that kind of thing where we go cool, what kind of thing you're looking for, and we build it live. And they go oh wow, you're building a bot great, you can take that away and use it in your business. Now what that led to is because we give so much value, people started introducing this to other people. So we had for example, oh John Lee Dumas on the podcast, and then ended up we did some work for him beforehand before the podcast so we'll talk about the results. We improved his webinar rate quite significantly and because we improved that then he introduced me to Pete Vargas and Ray Higdon. Then we just started to level up. So I always say is if you want to go and get paid by level eight, then go and work for level nines for free or level 10s for free. It improves your authority, credibility, and at the same time, it opens up your network to get even wider. So I always looked as well for any deals that would make with some of these high leverage people is how can we leverage that and then introduce it to other people at the same time.
How do you stay in front of these people that you've created these relationships with?
So the last couple of years have obviously been a little bit different in terms of going to events. But what's interesting is, for example, I had someone message me today and she said, "Hey, we spoke last year." Bear in mind, I haven't physically spoken to her in over a year, and before when I did speak with her we spoke for about five minutes. She said, "I'm looking to do this, is this the kind of thing that you do?" So staying at the top of people's minds, how do we do that? Well, I post on social media, like six times a week. I can't remember the person who I got this from but we do a connect authority. So we will make a small offer like a lead magnet and we'll ask who wants it and everyone will want to get it. So then we get to have back and forth conversations with those and then the other ones, it might be like a personal story about me. It could be a case study so when people see case study after case after case study of "Hey, look at all these six-figure seven-figure results that we're getting for people," then you naturally stay on top of mind and it's not so much with social media. Sometimes everyone's like, "Oh my god, no one's engaging with my post." If you want to work with seven and eight-figure entrepreneurs, most of those won't engage with your posts, but they're always watching. Always keep an eye on things. If you are at that seven-figure level, or even at a six-figure level, how many times you actually go, "Oh, I like that. I like that." No, you just scan every so often and just go, "Oh, that's interesting, I'll make a note to myself about that," rather than engaging with everything.
What advice would you offer the business professionals really looking to grow their network?
So I'd say do what do I did, and find how you can give as much value as possible to the people that you really want to work with. Identify your dream clients, and give as much value to those people as possible, and then you will work either with them or someone very close to them based on that. So you'll find a lot of the high-level people, if you go up to them and say, "Hey, I'm really good at doing this thing, am I okay to do this for you for free?" I spoke to someone else who does the same similar thing with LinkedIn profiles. So he went to a lot of the bigger players in the industry and said, "Hey, would you mind if I create your LinkedIn profile based on what I know about you? I've been following you for a long time. If you think it's great, you can use it. If not, that's fine." They're like, "Yeah, sure do," and then afterward, they're like, "What can I do for you?" Then you've got testimonials from all these big players and suddenly, that becomes an authority overnight.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Remember, every single person that comes into your world ash a human beating heart. They're not an automation, they're not a lead, they're a person. When you start to remember that, and start having those back and forth conversations with your customers or potential customers, and you start to find out what the pains are, their desires are in a lot more detail. It makes your marketing better, it reduces your cost to acquire a customer and increases your reputation in the marketplace. So have more conversations with more people and you'll make more money, have more impact on the world and be better for it.
Connect with Paul
Amplify To 7 Figures Podcast: https://amplifyto7figures.com/home
Ashley is an ex-corporate marketing executive for a $4 billion company turned to online marketing consultant who has helped hundreds of six, seven, and eight-figure online entrepreneurs create customer-centric marketing and sales strategies. As a certified NLP practitioner, Ashley believes the power of marketing is to teach your ideal clients how to think, not tell them what to do using a combination of psychographics and human behavior in your brand messaging.
What is the number one mistake you see when it comes to messaging?
It's kind of hard to narrow it down to one. But what I really see a lot specifically with clients that I've worked with is a lot of the time people will create content that doesn't really reflect their ideal client. What I mean by that, and one of the biggest things that I've found, especially through my NLP training and working with all these clients, the one thing that I've found that was so transformational was that your messaging and marketing is a reflection of your mindset. So a lot of the times I see when it comes to messaging, people will try to create messaging that attracts a certain type of client, but their mindset does not match the client they're trying to attract and I'll give you a quick example. A lot of the times when I read content, I can see where that person's mindset is coming from and what they were thinking in the moment they created that content, or they created that message, and why they were bringing in a certain type of person that they were bringing in. One of the examples I really like to use is one of my clients. She is a physical therapist that specializes in concussion recovery and she is phenomenal and amazing at what she does and when the pandemic hit, she turned into an online business. She created this membership program for patients who have had concussions. She is very out of the box, very different from the industry norms, which are the people I love to work with. So she created this webinar to promote this new membership that she had and she had almost 3,600 people sign up for this webinar and she had a very great ROI conversion. But when she got the clients into the program, she started to realize that a lot of them were in a victim mentality mode and they felt very defeated. They felt like they were helpless and when we started digging into her messaging, one of the things that she was saying in the webinar was I'm going to help you navigate your concussion symptoms. When I asked her why did you specifically choose, "I'm going to help you navigate your concussion symptoms?" And she said, "Well because when I created this, I was, I felt very helpless because my brick and mortar with the pandemic had to shut down so I went from making all this money to having to shut down my practice." So she was in this mentality of like, I'm helpless, I have to do something, it was this I don't know how to navigate my life now. So she used that word and what she found was the people who came into that program came in looking for her to solve their problem, they didn't take responsibility for their own recovery, they didn't take responsibility for their own actions, they were basically creating a codependent relationship on her. And because she felt helpless, she was turning around and bending over to their every need, and jumping in and doing more and doing all these things, because again, she set that container. So when we went in, and we restructured her messaging, we legit only changed the title of the webinar and the title of the webinar, the second time she launched was Regain Control of Your Life After A Concussion, and it was night and day. The reason why was using even the word regain on a psychological level, it makes you think that something was taken from you and it's your responsibility to take it back. When you have that, it changed the mindset to where she's gonna guide me and they took responsibility. So the second round, she had about 200 new members come in and she was saying that the atmosphere, the environment, the energy, everything was night and day, because all of these people who came in the second round, came in with a determined mindset and they were ready to go. That was a really long explanation, but that is one of the biggest mistakes I see is that when people are creating that messaging, it is a reflection of their mindset and their mindset needs to be in the correct place to be able to attract the ideal client that they want.
What is something in your industry that you don't agree with?
There are a lot. I have kind of built my entire brand around being disruptive in the industry. One of the biggest things which is very controversial, but I do not agree that people have to know, like, and trust you before they buy from you. That's one, another is you don't need to create how-to content. I think a lot of times we get stuck in that how-to content and we are only going to attract someone with a DIY mindset when we do that. I also don't really agree that serving is selling and I'll explain that one too, but we'll go back to the first one. I don't feel like people have to know, like, and trust you, before they buy from you. There has to be some type of trust there, but they don't have to fully know you. I love to use the example of let's say, you really want a new washer and dryer, and you're aware that you need a new washer dryer, you're aware of the problem. If you go to, let's say, Home Depot, and the salesperson who is going to sell you the washer-dryer, if they come up to you, and ask you if you need any help, you're not going to say, "Well, let me get to know this person I need to know about his family, and I need to know about all the stuff he's done in his life." I don't even really need to like him, I just need my problem solved. I just need to trust, I think trust is probably the biggest one, I need to trust that he is going to be capable of helping me solve the problem that I need to be solved. So I think a lot of the times we get stuck in that know, like, and trust so we end up creating content, creating messaging online, trying to get people to know us and like us, and to seek approval versus actually showing up to serve. I know it's a little controversial, because even on the flip side, I have known someone and I've liked them a lot, and I trusted them, but then I worked with them and they still didn't solve the problem that I needed. solved. Right. I only worked with them because I really liked them, but they weren't the best equipped to help me solve the problem that I needed.
What do you think is one uncommon thing seven and eight-figure business owners have that others don't?
One of the most uncommon things that seven and eight-figure business owners have or what I've even seen is they don't emphasize personal care. So what I mean by that is a lot of the entrepreneurs who are under the six-figure mark really try to build their life around their business and not the other way around. I know this is preached all the time, but when I really started to work with the seven and eight-figure business owners, what I realized is a lot of them had really strong containers. I don't mean boundaries, I just mean containers, they set expectations, and they never stepped out of those expectations. They also created expectations for their teams and their work relationships and they also spent a ton of time putting their life first and building their business around their life. That's one of the biggest things that I've seen is that mindset of I have to hustle, that's not there in the seven or eight-figure entrepreneurs and I think it is uncommon, especially in the online industry to see that because we're told you just have to work harder and you're one funnel away and this is your next step. When do you know when enough is enough? When are you actually gonna get to that next thing? That was one of the biggest things that I really started to see is that they really set these strong containers and they spent a lot more time on them. One thing I will say too, that I've started to implement myself is they actually spent a lot of time and stillness. Not meditation, but when I say stillness, they legit sat in stillness, no phone, no paper, no nothing. They just sat with their thoughts for 45 minutes to an hour, every single day in stillness, and just let their mind just be still. That brings so much clarity and I was like, "Oh, my gosh, there is no way that I could do that, there's no way I could just sit still for 45 minutes and not do anything," And that is something that I actually started to challenge myself on and I do that every day now. I go and sit for 40 minutes with no phone, no paper, no nothing, no meditation. I just sit in a chair, look at the wall and just sit for 40 minutes. It's amazing what happens, your brain just starts to go wild at first, and then it just starts to get really still and really calm and the best ideas come to you so much clarity comes to you. That's something I see a ton of the seven eight-figure business owners do that not a lot of the six or multi six-level ones do.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I'm going to tell a story about just being 100% yourself and not being there to prove anything. I was invited to speak at an event and there were very high-level entrepreneurs in this audience. I got on stage and I want to say this because yeah, it is about networking. But I think what hangs all of us up when it comes to networking are those thoughts about what people are going to think about you or about how you feel awkward in certain situations. So anyway, I got on stage and the first thing I said was "Guys, I'm just gonna be dead honest with you, I'm sweating like a pig. I don't even know if pigs sweat, but I'm sweating like a pig and I'm incredibly nervous to be on this stage. I just wanted to let you guys know, because it's very nervous to be up here and it's very vulnerable to be up here and to speak and have everyone staring at you." As soon as I did that the entire room relaxed and you could just kind of feel the tension, you could feel the relief across the room. I tell you that because I use that now in every single networking event that I've been to the first thing I say to someone is like, "Hey, I am incredibly intimidated to be here, because I know that there are so many successful people here, but it is really nice to meet you," and just immediately telling yourself and letting them know, it almost puts the pressure off of them too, because they're most likely feeling the same way. It just creates this bond and then what ends up happening now when I do this, they'll say, "Oh, my gosh, have you met Ashley may yet?" Because I immediately set that connection and also use a lot of humor. This is actually something I've learned with my child that to connect with your child is to never make them wrong. Like never make someone wrong for thinking something or doing something and always throw in a little bit of playfulness or silliness. Throwing that that playfulness and that silliness in there immediately draws this connection. One way I do that, in networking events that ties back to my brand is my whole brand is built around farts and I'm not even joking. My podcast is no farting around I talk about industry disruptors making a big stink in their industry. So a lot of times when I go to these networking events, I'll immediately say, "I'm Ashley Fernandez and one thing you should know about me is, I think farts are funny. Everyone thinks farts are funny and that's why I created my entire brand around farts." Even now, when I speak, I always tell a fart story. I'll tell a fart story at the very end, I'll say there was absolutely no reason why I told that story except to prove that it doesn't matter how much money you make, how old you are, we all think farts are funny. The tension is completely released and everyone feels so much more connected to me, because I've added in some type of humor, and I have just been 100% vulnerable and real. I think that's one of the most successful tips I have for networking. You immediately stand out in a room because you are building that playful connection.
What advice would you offer that business professional who is looking to grow their network?
I actually had a coach one time tell me that she went to a networking event and the speaker asked everyone to raise their hand in the room if they were here to sell something. She said everyone raised their hand in the room, right, and then she said to raise your hand if they were here to buy something and only two people raised their hand. Then she says, "I want you to take this moment to learn that when you approach a situation in a place of an agenda to sell, you're making it about you you're not making it about the person you're networking with, and do you want to be in a friendship where it's always take take take? No!" That's always stood out to me and so now even when I go to networking events, I never talk about my offer. Even if someone was like, "Oh my gosh, I'd love to work with you." I say, "You know what? Let's connect on Facebook, let's connect on LinkedIn, let me send you a link to my calendar, and let's just jump on a call because I truly want to make sure that you have a chance to meet everyone that you need to meet here." That is so different than everyone else when they network because they're thinking about how they can sell people. Don't ever approach a networking event that way. Have the mindset of who can I connect with and how can I bring value to them at this event without expecting anything in return? And that goes back to the whole I don't believe in serving and selling. I do go into it with a servant's heart and it eventually leads to sales sometimes or even just amazing relationships that lead to referrals, but I don't ever go into it without it.
Do you have any final words of advice to offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I just would say just go out there when you're networking and truly make it about relationships, without an agenda, or relationships without anything in return. I think that is just the biggest part when it comes to networking and not really approaching it to make money or to grow your audience or your clients. It is truly about relationships at the end of the day. Again, your marketing your messaging, the way you do one thing, and the way you do all things. When you approach it with that mindset of I really truly am here to serve someone I think that just everything shifts, and it really shows because you can truly tell the people in the online space who are there to serve and who are the ones who are there with an agenda.
Connect with Ashley
Tom Andrews operates Andrews Media Ventures an independent PR communications consultancy based in Hartford, Wisconsin. Tom's background includes 35 years of major market broadcast news and public relations experience. Tom and his team have aligned professionals to help corporate and nonprofit clients raise their business and organizational profiles through services such as creative writing, PR console, media relations, spokesperson training, video production, voice talent, and special events support.
Besides using conventional online, print, broadcast, advertising, what other ways might a business or nonprofit organization consider to help raise public awareness about their products or services?
Well, I'm not at all saying that conventional advertising and such are bad avenues to take. But in conjunction with that, I encourage my clients to think about earned media, grassroots type of methods of getting your message out. Earned media means coming up with angles that your company has that could be potentially newsworthy, and then pitching those to television, radio, print, whatever. Also, the advent of the digital world has given us social media. So there are opportunities now, as you never had before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all these different methods that people have to get their word out. Another thing that I encourage them to do is to consider what I call side door advertising. You have an opportunity to be a part of community events, sponsorships, opportunities to get where you're not necessarily the focus, but by the side door, people have to know who you are, they have to be ident you have to be identified. Same thing if your company is featured in a news story of some sort. Maybe the story is not how great Keystone click is, but maybe the story involves Keystone click and they tell people who you are. So there's a variety of different ways to get your message out. All in addition to if you have an advertising budget, all the better. But sometimes I've worked with companies and entities that really didn't have much of a budget to do that. Particularly nonprofits maybe don't have the money to do that. So I look for other avenues to get the word out, get creative.
As someone who came from the news business, how important is the use of video in telling my company story and doesn't have the impact it once did in the b2b world as well as reaching the general public?
I spent quite a bit of time with video, and I still do I still am involved in video production. So I'm getting my biases out there for you right away. I still think that video when it's done well, has a tremendous impact as much today if not more than ever, because companies used to produce a video, and it has basically one use, they produce it, it'd be a DVD, they'd get it out, send it to their prospective clients or people that they wanted to work with and that was the end of it. Well today, when we shoot videos, we shoot them for repurposing, we shoot them so you can take some sound clips, video clips, and you can put them on Twitter, you can put them on Facebook. So you've got golden opportunities to reuse, if you will, the same material and augmented and refresh it all the time. I think video has a tremendous impact because I think it's the best mode of conveying human emotions. We talk about doing things in person, or the big thing is why is it so effective? Because you get to see the facial expressions of the person you're speaking with. There are silent little signals that don't come over in an email, they don't come over in a post on Facebook, or some social media, but you sit down with somebody and you get to know them, and you get to understand where they're coming from and I think that's a very effective way to get your messages across.
When telling a company's or organization's story, can you address the importance of the people aspect in storytelling?
That's the in-person thing I've just mentioned. When you’re storytelling, for example, I'll pick on the news business for a moment, okay? The stories that I always found got the best response and the longest shelf life, I still hear about them. I've been on television for many, many years, but people remember the people whose lives were affected, or changed for the better, or impacted by whatever the story happened to be. So we build our stories, you build stories around people because that's the factor that everybody that either tugs at the heartstrings, or it or you find yourself saying, "I had that happened to me, I understand what he or she is feeling."
Can you share with our listeners your most successful or favorite networking experience that you've had?
I will say right up front that I'm a very lucky person because of the career I had before thrust me into all kinds of situations where I had to meet new people. I had to learn about their business, I had to learn something about their family or something like that. What are you doing in networking? You're introducing yourself, you're trying to find out about somebody else's business, you're trying to figure out if you can interface with this person? So when I started out I was on the radio, I covered the Bucks, the Brewers, Marquette Warriors, the Green Bay Packers, the Wisconsin Badgers, all those things. And I was networking, all the while gathering my contacts, but the best location was always the press box because I got to reunite. To this day, I still do some scattered features for the brewery for game day magazine and I get to go and reconnect with people that I used to work with or who were coming into the business. But the thing about it is that kind of an atmosphere has given me all kinds of opportunities. For instance, from doing things with the Green Bay Packers I got to edit rather and do some writing and do the marketing for the first biography ever done on Curly Lambeau. It was called Lambeau, The Man Behind The Mystique. Later on, I was approached because of my junky hood from going back to baseball cards when I was five years old, and getting introduced to the Milwaukee Braves. Today I'm also one of the directors of the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association and because of that, I got sought out by a guy who has written a chain of sportsbooks. The book was for Milwaukee Braves fans only and because of that, I had to split it up in terms of writing. We had contacts with people who are still Milwaukee Braves fans today, catch up with them, and get them to tell us their stories. Their personal stories of I remember the first time I met Warren Spahn, or I got picked up by Warren Spahn when I was hitchhiking, or I remember bugging players in the parking lot outside county stadium. Those are just precious memories. So I got to kind of relive my childhood with that.
How do you best stay in from of and nurture your network?
Well, I've always considered my network like a garden, if you will. You are planting constantly you're planting and hoping that they're going to bear fruit. But what do you got to do? When you start planting things, do you just wait? No! You have to water it, you have to weed it, you got to do all these things. Also, here's a key one. Keeping in contact with people not only when you're trying to figure out if you can do something together, but it’s also learning about your contacts, learning about their family. Mark that stuff down and the old days, we have what was called a Rolodex. You would write down this on this rotating little miniature file system that you kept at your desk. Nowadays its this is called, your database so you have update and nourish your database every chance you get. If you read about something where maybe somebody even if you're not working with them anymore, but you knew them before, and they just did something of significance, call them up, congratulate them, or send them an email. You would be amazed at the number of things that come swimming back to you in a very positive light. If you stand at the edge of the garden with your arms crossed and waiting, it does not happen. You have to push it.
Let's go back to your 20-year-old self. What would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
Wow, that is a loaded question because hindsight is always 20-20, and boy, if I knew then what I knew now, I'm certain that my attitudes on all the number of things would be completely different than they were. I never considered myself to be a know it all, but I would always listen to myself when I was certain that I was correct. I always dug my heels in and that was not very flexible on certain things. Looking back I would be more flexible, I would be more open to seeing other ways of doing things even if I was certain. Listen, I've done this before, I'm lock stock and barrel certain that this is going to work. I've done it before, but maybe not as well as the idea that somebody else just came up here. So I think that's probably what I would tell myself, be a little bit more open, be more flexible, and always be a better listener.
Do you have any final words of advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Always be thinking about growing and supporting your network. Don't be afraid to reach out and tell your story to others and also be encouraging to get other people to tell you their story. What's the story about them as much as they want to share about them personally, or about their company, or how they got to where they are. People like to share that kind of information, but many times they're not drawn out? to do it. So I would encourage you to do that. Take notes, mental notes, and when you get back to your car, write them down, write something down, make up a little review. If somebody really interested you write down as much as you can remember right there when it’s fresh. Builds your network, grow your garden!
Connect with Tom
She is a principal and owner of McMillion Consulting. Lindsey believes in the power of influence and is a connector to the core as a national and international speaker, writer, and prospecting trainer. Her expertise is founded on equipping successful professionals and teams to profitably connect with purpose on LinkedIn. She has worked with 1000s of people to help them drive millions in revenue. Lindsey believes teaching should be practical as learning is actionable love that she loves helping her clients win.
Building relationships is all about establishing trust. How do we go about building trust on LinkedIn?
I always talk about how LinkedIn is this powerful online tool, but at the end of the day, business and networking and connecting have always been social, even before the internet existed. Shaking hands, kissing babies, following up to people knocking on doors. So I like to just remind people that and part of this is just to let down the anxiety and fear that comes with using a powerful tool like LinkedIn. So many things that I say and speak about this tool are similar to what you would do offline in many ways. So how do you build trust on LinkedIn? You do it just like you would offline so you have to think about your reputation. When you think about your reputation offline, and the credibility that you have, you want to make sure that that's mirrored online, specifically through your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn loves keywords, just like Google does so the more you can strategically and completely build out that LinkedIn profile with keywords, you're increasing your likelihood of coming up in a search result on the platform. If you were to Google somebody's name, LinkedIn and Google love each other so there's a high likelihood that it's not the first result, the second or third result on that first page is going to be that person's LinkedIn profile. Also, people do not have to have a LinkedIn account to see your profile because it's public. So I always like to emphasize that remembering the foundation of any success on LinkedIn is going back to your LinkedIn profile. The other thing I like to incorporate, here is authenticity. My motto for McMillion Consulting is connecting with purpose and when you're connecting with purpose, as it relates to LinkedIn, what does that mean? Well, it means personalizing your outreach, following up to start a conversation, getting offline. Sometimes parts of the conversation can be in LinkedIn, but you still want to meet them in person because at the end of the day, we're all in the human to human business so we want to think about just being authentic, connecting with purpose, personalizing our outreach, following up, asking people if they want to have a conversation offline to continue the discussion that was started. So I think of reputation, I think of authenticity, I think of generosity. We have to be servants of our knowledge, and our networks, and what I mean by that is you are Lori, an expert in marketing and many things in advertising. You and I were recently speaking about marketing automation and so many things that I have no idea about, but some that I do. So it's this idea that you are very intentional, as I was sharing our knowledge with our networks on LinkedIn. What I always say, when I think about generosity on LinkedIn is it's not just about being a good steward, and a good servant of your knowledge, but it's also about recognizing when others do the same. It's also about being generous with your network and introducing people. I loved your opening comment, "Hey, if you know anyone else who should be a part of this podcast in the conversation and let me know," and we have to tell people that so that they do think of us when they think of someone in their network who's a great speaker, who should be interviewed by you on their podcast. Then lastly, I would say is this consistency. So one client goes into LinkedIn, he's very consistent, every Sunday and Thursday. Now, I'm going to put a little disclaimer asterisk by this and that it's not that Sunday and Thursday are the right time for you or me, but this just so happened to be his cadence. So Sundays and Thursdays, he would go into LinkedIn and on average, this specific activity that he was doing in LinkedIn, would yield him six appointments per week, of which he would close three on average. So he's a really good sales guy as a 50% success rate is pretty darn good, I would say. But the cool thing about those six appointments is that that was on top of what he was already doing in his business to grow his business. So he was using LinkedIn as an additive as a supplement to enhance his already successful growing business. What he said to me when he shared that was, "Lindsey, it's because I'm consistent and disciplined," so another way to think about consistency is showing up so you're top of mind.
Let's talk about ROI specific to the advertising that's available on LinkedIn. How can you go about getting that?
This is a really fun question because I flip it on its head. I'm asked this pretty often throughout the year where people will say, "Lindsay, I'm interested in spending some of my ad dollars on LinkedIn." What I would say is that perhaps if you're a really large corporation or enterprise, you can get away with dropping some pretty big bucks on LinkedIn advertising. But generally, there is truly a laundry list of items to get done for that spending to have some ROI. Meaning, what you might think of as a quick fix, with LinkedIn advertising, doesn't work that way. So a few examples of those laundry list items can include brushing up and cleaning up those LinkedIn profiles of yourself and your team members, making sure you have a company page, making sure that the individuals in your organization have networks that include people that you want to do business with, making sure you're posting content consistently across your individual profiles and your company page. I think that was like four or five things just right off the bat, right? So how do you get an ROI from your LinkedIn advertising, it's making sure that you're set up well for success because LinkedIn is looking at all of those little pieces, and not just saying, "Hey, the biggest better wins the honeypot."
Which LinkedIn feature is currently your favorite?
I'm not sure what year they released this, I want to say it was last summer. The feature that I absolutely love is setting an away message on LinkedIn. Many people have no idea that that's even a feature and it's a feature that you only get access to with LinkedIn premium. Now, when people hear LinkedIn premium, that's kind of the umbrella. But underneath that umbrella, you have multiple options. As of the release of this podcast, there are four LinkedIn, individual subscriptions that you can invest in for yourself. Even on the lowest-paid subscription, which is career and it's roughly $30 a month, you get access to set an away message. So few reasons I love this is one, I don't want to look like a jerk if you send me a message, and I don't respond to you within the blank amount of time that I'm out of the office. So you get a little ping back immediately, just like out of office on email works, that says I'm unavailable. Now the other reason I love it, which I do with my email as well is leveraging this as an opportunity for a little commercial or promotion. So I include a postscript on my LinkedIn away messages when I use them which includes one of my free guides. I mentioned a few moments ago that this is a feature you only get if you are paying for LinkedIn and so one of the things I want to share with your listeners is going back to what I mentioned at the beginning of our chat, which was the reputation. So I've got a free guide that anyone who's listening can get access to if they go to https://www.linkedintoit.com/freeprofileguide and it's about a seven or eight-page guide of how to prepare, build and launch your LinkedIn profile. Here's the thing, similar to advertising in many ways you could spend all the money in the world on LinkedIn, but it goes back to that key foundation where if you don't look reasonably intelligent, and you haven't intentionally built your LinkedIn profile the right way, nobody's going to respond to you, nobody's going to engage with you. So that free profile guide is a great place to get started.
Can you share one of your favorite networking stories or experiences that you've had?
It's actually when I was in college, and it's made such a really powerful impression on me that I believe it changed the trajectory of my career and how I was networking and meeting people in my business community and as a professional. So when I was in college, I don't think I even knew what a networking event was. But it just so happened that I was in the business school and they were hosting a networking event to teach us what it was and how to do it. So I show up to this event and you can imagine it was incredibly awkward and nothing was happening in this room of 20 or 30 students. Nothing was happening, we knew that it had a start time so we're looking at our watches and I'm like, "Why isn't this thing starting?" Well, I Look over and a gentleman is standing in the corner of the room. I'm sure many of the other students saw him and thought he was a professor observing the students and I just walked over to him, right, because I actually intended on asking him what was going on. So I walked over to him standing in the corner, I stuck out my hand to introduce myself, he put his hand out and handed me a $20 bill. He introduced himself as the event speaker and so the lesson of that impressionable story is the most important person in the room might be the person standing awkwardly and uncomfortably in a networking event. So as we brush off our in-person networking skills, be the person who speaks up first. If you're all there for a common goal to meet other people, to me, that just really lets down the guard and discomfort that sometimes comes with showing up at a networking event. But yeah, I got 20 bucks out of it and it turns out he was the most important person in the room!
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network or your community?
I think it's important to meet them where they're at and stay in front of them in multiple ways. So yes, I'm a LinkedIn expert, but when I say this, I really mean it, I've got a 17 or 18 point checklist that I share with clients that I train on how to use LinkedIn more productively and profitably and you can imagine that those 17 to 18 points aren't all on LinkedIn. So that's kind of the irony is that we have to remember to use multiple communication channels when we are networking and staying in front of our networks and growing our networks. So picking up the phone, following up via email, attending a local event, seeing if they're on other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and meeting them where they're at because that's generally going to be the place that they are most comfortable. I think, to me, that's the most important thing is not getting that tunnel vision of getting so stuck on a specific platform. It's using those other channels to connect with people.
What advice would you offer to business professionals looking to grow their network?
I came up with this little term. I've been talking about it for years, and finally coined it as "The Who Pie." I'm going to speak about LinkedIn specifically because it's a platform we both love and it's the sandbox I always say I play and stay and I don't touch any other social platform out there. When you think about your existing LinkedIn network, so that's your first-degree connections, I want you to think about your who pie. About 85% of your first-degree connections should be people who you authentically know, professionally. These people could be current colleagues of yours at the current company you work at, they could be people you previously worked together with, they could be people you've done business with, people you met at an event, people you went to college with, they're your clients, your vendors, your connections, and essentially, this portion of your network should be people who you can introduce to each other. Then I think there's this other 10% of your network that can be who you don't know yet. This is where that growth actually comes into play. So you're connected to about 10% or so of people who you don't know yet, but you're using LinkedIn as an entry point to get offline to schedule the phone call, or the zoom or the in-person meeting. So it is okay to be first-degree connections with people on LinkedIn who you don't know yet. But you're connecting with them intending to get to know them so that they essentially transfer over to that 85% of your who pie. So now, there's this other 5%. To me, those can be your friends and family. Here's the disclaimer: This 5% that can be friends and family need to represent themselves professionally. So both of my sisters are attorneys in the DC-Maryland area and while I don't do business with them directly, they're my sisters so I'm okay to be connected with them on LinkedIn, because they may know people who I need to meet. But of course, we have to be mindful of those family members who are not using LinkedIn professionally because if you engage with their activity, that activity is publicly visible. Similar to before I'll say it again, it's okay to be connected with your professional friends and family members, but to me, that 10% of the who pie is really where the opportunity is to grow.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
This is so easy for me, not to take myself so damn seriously. I still struggle with this and I think I'm also just learning to embrace that I do tend to be a little more serious. Funny enough, I kind of blame it on my sisters. They're much closer than age so in some ways you could look at our family tree and think, "Oh, Lindsey is an only child," but here's the deal. I didn't have anyone to banter with, my two sisters are incredibly sarcastic and I was like this serious child that is black and white and life is not black and white. We have to take a deep breath and shrug our shoulders and just relax sometimes. So I would definitely say not taking myself so seriously.
I understand that you have a giveaway for our listeners?
Yes! So my team and I have put together this incredible guide called the Ultimate LinkedIn Profile Examples Guide. In the years and years and years that I have interviewed clients, written their profiles, launched their profiles, time and time again, we're visual creatures as human beings, and they want to see the before and after the makeover. So finally, I got a brilliant idea of putting an Ultimate LinkedIn Profile Examples Guide together to help folks who get access to this boost and level up their LinkedIn profile the right way. This guide has more than 20 pages in it with inspiration because the idea is to inspire people who get it in their inbox, who get access to it, inspire them with other top-notch profiles that I've cherry-picked, and hand-selected. At the end of the day, you have a unique story, your career, where you're going, who you're doing business with, where you came from is all unique to you, but I think it's valuable to see other people who are doing it well. So I've handpicked tons and tons of examples and the idea with this is really so that you can get more time back on your watch when you're transforming your profile. I recently updated this guide and it now includes five bonus features to make sure you're using to implement in your profile to stand out even more. The offer is a 50% discount code on the guide. So when you go to https://www.linkedintoit.com/ultimate and apply the code "podcast50" you will receive 50% off your guide!
Connect with Lindsey
Claim your free profile guide: https://www.linkedintoit.com/freeprofileguide
Claim your copy of The Ultimate LinkedIn Examples Guide by heading to https://www.linkedintoit.com/ultimate and typing in promo code “podcast50”
LinkedIn: Lindsey McMillion Stemann | LinkedIn
Website: McMillion Consulting
Elizabeth started her career in technology after securing an MBA from Loyola University in Maryland back in the early 90s. She climbed the career ladder and an early-stage startup in the commercial construction technology industry to Director of Business Development and demonstrated success driving multimillion-dollar sales growth while providing award-winning sales leadership. After a personal challenge managing her home, Elizabeth decided to build the very solution she needed to save money, save time and reduce her stress. Now she is the Co-Founder of HomeZada, an online and mobile home management portal that helps homeowners manage their homes to save time and money and reduce stress. Specifically, HomeZada educates homeowners in the areas of home management, inventory, maintenance, remodeling projects, and finances. She recently won the 2019 Female Founders and FinTech Pitch Competition and appeared on the NASDAQ channel.
What made you take the leap to start your own software company?
Originally, I wasn't going to start a software company, because my husband had already started one and I worked for that company. Lo and behold, I ran into my own problems, as the bio indicated, I started running into problems at my home, and it was broken hot water heaters that broke earlier than they needed to only because I didn't understand that simply flushing them, which is basically how maintenance makes them operate properly. Not understanding how to manage all my maintenance, all these different areas, where was the money going in my house, I was really, really frustrated that I couldn't figure out all the little details of managing my home, and how to actually get this data to make it easier for me to manage my home. Then I started realizing if I'm having this experience is everyone else? And so I looked for 10 years for someone else to create a solution like HomeZada, and nobody did. We had sold our last company and my husband who I actually work with right now, said we've got another startup in us. Let's do it again, let's build the company that you want and the product that you want because we could help all these homeowners everywhere. At first, I thought it was crazy! But then I said, "No, you know what? I still have these problems, the solution to my problems are not solved, I need to solve them and they also need to help other people solve their problems as well," because if I'm going through this, other people must as well. Sure enough, we have customers all over the country, and in many countries outside the United States who experience the same things. They're running into problems managing all the details about their home in one place and this is what HomeZada allows them to do.
What types of marketing are you doing to build your customer base?
We target directly to the consumer so we target the homeowner. We use a lot of different marketing activities to reach them. The first set of activities that we target for our homeowner customers is a lot of digital marketing. We are a digital platform so making sure that we can give them access to our platform as easily. Anything that's social, pay per click, email marketing, and we also do a lot of other marketing as it relates to PR. PR is also a really good way for us to get our message out there because we do a lot of things because we are total home management in one system and not everybody needs complete home management all at once. They may need one portion of managing their home, for instance, I live maybe in Florida, meaning this homeowner, and it's getting ready to be hurricane season so I need to track a home inventory. So that's maybe where they start. Or maybe you're a first-time homeowner and what you need is to track your home maintenance, because you're not familiar with how to maintain your home. Or maybe like in the pandemic, everybody was doing projects and so how do I actually manage those projects as easily and efficiently as I can? So having PR communicate specifically how a particular area of HomeZada can help a specific homeowner during that area of their homeowner journey makes it really easy for us to really reach our customers and for them to understand more about how HomeZada can be valuable to them. One of the other things we do too is, when it comes to social, we do use a lot of videos to help people understand why it's valuable to manage your home digitally so that it's efficient for you, it does save you time and money and how you can actually do that using HomeZada as well. So videos are really popular with a lot of our users and they can reach our YouTube channel. The other thing that we do is also target our business to business customers. They range from real estate companies, mortgage companies, insurance companies, home builders, home maintenance contractors, and many more others that find HomeZada extremely valuable for them. So one of the things that we do there is it's a straightforward business development and partner management to reach those businesses and to help them understand how HomeZada can benefit their business as well as their customers. So it becomes a win-win for everyone. But there is a common thread that we see both with the homeowners and the businesses is that everybody needs to understand a little bit more about HomeZada. So engagement and interaction through education is the common thread that we see in both the audiences that we target and it makes it more effective for us to get our message out there in order for people to understand that we exist so they can get better at managing their homes.
Can you share with me one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you've had?
Oh, I have a great one for here. So I'm an extrovert, I love to network and I go to events all the time. So for me, it's really easy to network and I love meeting people and I love learning what they do and who I can connect them with. But there was one time when I went to a networking event and not everyone is an extrovert like me, many people are introverts. There was this young lady who was kind of off to the corner and I'm like, "No, this is not going to happen so beware here I come." We became fast friends after that, by the way, but during this time, she was really nervous. So we just got to talk in and having an understanding of each other's business and then I invited her to another event that I was actually speaking at locally here in the Sacramento area. She was really nervous and she explained to me, she was an introvert and I said, I could tell just because you're standing over by the wall, and not engaging, and I said, but we can actually help with that! At the next event, I said, just meet two people. Two people! You don't have to meet everybody in the room, just meet two people. Walk out with two people and that's it, make it really simple! She was so excited that she was given a goal that forces her out of our comfort zone, that not only did she meet two people, but she met seven people by the end of the night, and she was so proud of her achievement. She didn't realize how easy it was until it started going. But she was so stressed out about just I don't even want to talk to anyone and that simple little goal, a low-risk goal helped her continue to build out her networking capabilities. So then she met a lot of other people I know in the industry, and the tech industry here, and she ended up meeting many, many more, and then doing business with a lot of these individuals. So one little thing, one little goal, meeting two people was super simple, and then here it is, she's now got a thriving business because of just one tiny little goal.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your relationships within your network?
That's a hard thing for a lot of people, especially if your networks are large. One of the ways I do that is through LinkedIn. I'm a big fan of LinkedIn, I can periodically see what's going on in people's lives, but I can also correspond and send private messages just to reconnect with a lot of people. Another thing that I do and perform now granted it, the pandemic has put a slight change on things, but it's also making sure that you are going to the events in your area. We had a lot of virtual events during the pandemic, making sure you're still doing that and continuing to build those relationships. One of the other things that I also participate in is what we refer to as Masterminds. A Mastermind generally brings a group of people together, not giant, just a small group, where individuals can freely speak about their business, and how each other can help each other, and not only help each other in the business and answer questions and suggestions for a particular task or a strategy but also because when you have a group of individuals, where you have the freedom to speak, they have networks that they have as well, that they can also bring to the table which also helps all of us nurture our networks because now we've got more people to introduce to each other, to help each other grow each other's businesses.
What advice would you offer that business professional really looking to grow their network?
The biggest thing I would say is one, get out there. Two, don't be shy with LinkedIn, I just love LinkedIn. So don't be shy with that, hear what people have to say. Even if they ping you through in mail or some other connection, hear what they have to say before you actually write them off, because you never know where you can support each other. Then I do encourage people, especially for those introverts out there just to meet two people at an event. Do not give yourself some astronomical goal that you feel intimidated by and you may not want to go out there at all. So if you feel so intimidated, you're probably not going to go out and network at all, just tell yourself that you only need to meet two people at an event. That's it, and make it a quality two people meaning that you spend quality time with them to get to know them a little bit more. Then once you start meeting those people, they'll start introducing the other people, and then you've got a built-in buddy system at an event because people just start introducing you.
I don't have a whole lot of regrets looking back, but I will say take the job. So there was an opportunity that was provided to me and I thought at the time, I wasn't qualified enough for the job. I thought that the job needed someone else's skill set in it and I declined the position, which was surprising for someone like me because I'm pretty confident. But I just felt this was for the best of the company at the time and then as it turns out, I ended up having to do the job anyway, over years of doing it. So take the job, if it's offered to you take the job, you will figure it out and people within your company will help you figure it out.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners about networking?
I would say get out there. However, you do it virtually, online, in person. Also, keep it simple, don't stress yourself out, especially after the pandemic, a lot of people have been inside for a long time, and they haven't been in offices, and they may be nervous. So it's just a little bit at a time and you don't have to jump in the deep end right away. Just step your toe in the steps and go on the shallow end with just a couple of people every time you go out. Just meet two people.
Connect with Elizabeth
Paul wears many hats, ghostwriting, agency founder, bestselling author, podcast host master networker, husband, father, older brother to younger men, amateur theologian, voice mimic, and recovering insurance salesman. As a first-generation Spanish-speaking immigrant to the US with African heritage and the Middle East come back experience, Pual's lived in five different countries, speaks two languages, and holds three passports. Paul does two things well, words and people. When he isn't writing content for clients, you're most likely to find him building relationships and creating opportunities for his network.
Effective communication is something that you preach quite a bit. What role does effective communication play when it comes to growing your business?
I've said for quite a while now, but one of the things that came to the forefront with me was that I make way more money with my ears than I do with my mouth. What I mean by that is that there's a tendency in everyday conversations when you're building relationships with people. To stay on the surface of things, to sort of being polite and chitchat and as I was learning the ropes of networking, it was fine. But eventually, I got to a point where it became very repetitive, and especially if you're in a medium to small size town where you know a lot of the people in any sort of business networking event, that's going to start to get stale. It did for me because I was passionate about it. I loved connecting with people, and I loved going to events and functions, and it was my primary method of generating business. But I couldn't keep talking like that and so I said, I've really got to get a lot more curious about people. For a long time, I couldn't think of what to say, and when somebody finally pointed it out to me, I suddenly realized, Oh, I'm being reminded of something I should already know, having studied communication in university, and having been exposed to newsrooms, and working in radio stations in Seattle. I should have known that the approach of the journalist or the curious TV interviewer, someone like Oprah Winfrey, for example. You just need to distill that down to an everyday conversational level, where you're asking people questions that quickly get beneath the surface, not in an inappropriate way, but in a way that sort of pulls out of them what they wouldn't regularly reveal. Not because they're ashamed, or extremely private, but simply because nobody thinks to ask them. I found that as soon as I started asking these kinds of questions that got below the surface, and then I started being a curious journalist and saying, "Well, tell me who, tell me what, where, when, why, how," all these open-ended sorts of things, people just will tell you all kinds of weird and wonderful things about themselves. Over time, as I built up this huge, giant mental Rolodex in the back of my head, I quickly discovered that whenever people told me what their problems were, or what their pain points were, I had right in the back of my head an instant list of people that I could connect them to who could help them. So I just became this hub, this sort of go-between, this broker almost, if you will, of one person to the next, solving problems and making myself valuable.
What are the five tips for networking with your dream connections?
This is one of my favorites. In my book, which by the way is going to be available to your audience for a free digital copy. I've realized after publishing that I have had these ordered incorrectly but they're all still the same. The first thing I tell people is you got to be an angler. So when a fly fisherman is trying to get a trout or a salmon to jump out of the water, he's going to cast that rod at an angle that mimics the flight patterns of a fly above the surface of the water. So the analogy that I take from that is that when you're in a networking function, you're gonna show up physically sort of the way everyone else does. You show up, you're going to smile, a handshake, whatever criteria you need to. But then, when you open your mouth, you hook people. When you begin to communicate, you hook them one way, shape, or another. The bio that you were referencing earlier on, that's a hook. Being a very attentive listener, that's a hook and it's a hook because so few people do it. So I tell people when I go out to a function, or an event or something like that, I never go to transact business, but I do go for business reasons. The business reasons are always to meet people and ideally, to hook the right people, not into signing a contract on the spot, but into developing a further relationship with me. Number two, I call it to be a scout, be a therapist and be a publicist. So scouts, as you may have heard in sports, are always out there looking for the right people to have in their circle. So you're always paying more attention to people than the average person does. You're always more curious about them, you're always trying to find out what you can about them. Not for the purpose of keeping tabs on people or, but it is like, if you have this problem, then I know someone who can help you with it. So you're scouting out, who's the right people to have in your circle. Going the other direction, as a publicist, sort of like what you're doing now, as a podcast host, you're helping me make contact with however many listeners download this episode, you're helping introduce me to your audience and so you're identifying me as somebody that you think it would be good for them to know of, or know about, or potentially even get acquainted with. A podcast is one way to do that, you can do it on your personal Facebook page! For what it's worth, I used to go to real estate open houses and I would ask the realtor there, would you mind if I did a video tour, and posted this house on Facebook, so more people know about it. What real estate agent was gonna say no to that? So that's another way you can do it and then the other thing, of course, is to be a therapist. By this, I don't mean you literally have somebody lie down on a couch and try to console them through their problems. But what I do mean is you have to go back and find out what is causing people to struggle because that's where you make your money. Entrepreneurs get paid first and foremost, to solve problems so if we're out there offering solutions that don't solve the problems people are actually having, then we're not being entrepreneurs. The mistake we make is we think the only solution that's worth offering is the one I get paid for, when in fact, the solution that's worth offering is the one that solves the person's problem, whether you get paid or not. Then the other thing is focused on the farm team. Lori, you're a hockey player. So you know what a farm team is and that's the whole thing is when I talk about networking with dream connections, if you learn to treat everyone around you as a potential dream connection, whether they actually are one or not, sooner or later, you're going to be in front of that dream connection. I use the examples of socially prominent people like politicians or celebrities or actors or athletes, but it does don't necessarily have to be that. It could just be your absolute dream client, that one magic client that goes 1000 miles deep and keeps you busy and you know floods your business with new revenue. But if you know what to say to them when you get in front of them because you've been practicing it on hundreds of other people who didn't fit that profile, you're not going to stumble through your words, you're not going to be at a loss for what to say or how to say it, you're going to launch into it the same way you would with everybody else you've ever done it with. So while you're working your way up towards being in front of that dream connection, focus on the farm team and practice on the everyday people that you run into all the time.
All businesses want influence in the marketplace, how do you suggest that they achieve that?
The phrase that I've coined for this is what I call, you need to set about building your own unpaid sales force. Funnily enough, I didn't think about this until recently, the occupation of ghostwriting actually has a parallel to this, but which is what my agency does. If you think about it, we are always either taking information in via our ears and eyes or were spreading it out via our fingertips on the keyboard. So when you're trying to build influence in the marketplace, what you're really trying to do is reproduce a message that resonates with people. The way that I found to do this is that as I kept networking and as I kept showing up, and as I kept adding value in the groups that I was a part of, pretty soon, some people began to become like walking, talking billboards for me. Also, it was totally voluntary, it wasn't like I had some master switch or something like that and people talked about me. But these people also had friends and neighbors and co-workers and associates that they spent time with, who would say, "I need to find a new insurance agent, who do you recommend?" I had become so adept at showing up consistently both digitally and in-person with a giving hand that I was constantly getting recommendations. My phone was constantly ringing in my office with somebody saying I was referred to you by so and so. When I got into ghostwriting, I suddenly realized, in this case, I was the author and all of these people who were recommending me were my ghostwriters. They were carrying my message, they were just doing it verbally instead of in print. They were carrying my message one way or the other. What they liked about me really resonated and struck a chord with them and they would go and tell other people, "Hey, this guy, you can trust him. He's responsible, he's reliable, he's prompt, he does that he gets the job done," whatever qualities they admired about me. I had my own series of marketing ghostwriters who basically carried my message to the marketplace and spread the word and so I became very well known in the community and a similar sort of thing is happening now in the servant leader influencer, coach, consultant space, a lot of My name is starting to travel around before I get there. So yeah, what role does effective communication play? Well, I can't build a business without it and I don't know of anyone who can.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
In the last three or four years, mastermind leaders and people who participate in masterminds who have that culture of collaboration and everybody growing together comprise at least 50% of my clientele because it's not just networking, there's a purpose attached to it that goes beyond your obvious commercial self-interest. From these groups, I've built several relationships that are basically the springboard to capture nearly every client I've had. Most, especially among them is Aaron Walker. Now, his mastermind is called Iron Sharpens Iron, I'm a member of it. The way that I got into that was Aaron got introduced to me by a friend. It went back to my cornerstone principles, the pro bono publicity is what I call it for podcasting or that kind of thing, and be a publicist. So Aaron's a serial podcast guest, so I invited him on my show when he came on and I could immediately tell, I like this guy, and would love to spend more time learning from him. He happened to mention that he was going to launch a new product and he was looking to promote it then. I said, "Well, you're already invited back if you'd like to come on the show again, at that time, and it would help you," and he said, "Absolutely." We got done with the interview and from then on, I did what I've always known how to do, even if you're broke. Even if you're broke, you can still introduce people who should know each other. That's what I tell people, even if you don't have a penny to spend on marketing, it doesn't matter because of who you know. So I knew a lot of people, some of them socially prominent, and some of them who fly below the radar, but still people that Aaron would want to know. I started introducing him to everyone and the difference when I started doing this is that Aaron thrives on that kind of stuff. Most people appreciate it, but for Aaron, it's like the lifeblood of his business too. All of a sudden, he was meeting all these people, some of them in his own hometown that he didn't know, and getting connected. So when he came back in October of 2019, I was still struggling. I was about 15 months into being broke with no income and he came back and we did the interview and when we were on the post-interview chat, he said, "Look, you've introduced me to all these incredible people, you don't know how much I value that and you need to let me do something for you." Well, I had been waiting for somebody to say that for I don't know how long, but of course I'd been broke for 15 months and I was like, "Aaron, I don't even know what to ask for." He said, "Well, what's something that you could do? Your current business attempts are not working out so what's something you could do that is valuable and that people are currently paying for?" He helped me cut right to it and I said, "Well, I'm a talented writer, I've been writing all my life, I've never been able to put it down," and he said, "Well yeah, people need that, why don't we give it a try, you can come and write for me. I need to hire a writer, I've got blogs and content that I physically can't get to, because I'm too busy, why don't you come and write content for my team? If I like it and you like it, we'll keep doing it, and then we'll see what comes of it." So I started doing that, join the mastermind, and about two months after that, hands started to go up in and said, "I need help, too, can you come and write for me, I'll pay for it." Six months later, I had a business. It just goes to show you sometimes you've got to do this. If you don't know who you're looking for, and I didn't for many years, sometimes you got to do this for a long time. But eventually, you're gonna do it for the right person if you don't give up and you keep doing it, eventually, you're gonna do it for the right person who has the ability to elevate your business to the next level and that's what happened to me. I just kept doing it until the right person came along and then all of a sudden, I was a legit entrepreneur, just like I always wanted to be.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network in your community?
There are a couple of different ways I do it. What I found is that the most meaningful and impactful ways are video messages and handwritten notes. Now, you might think, Well, I know hundreds of people that's an awful lot of time. I don't do hundreds of people, any more than you would, but you can do one a day. You could batch record 20 videos one day out of a month, and send them right. What that does is it communicates something besides whatever message you send, it also communicates that this person could have busied themselves with any number of things in their business, instead, they chose to spend 60 to 90 seconds, greeting me personally or two minutes writing to say they care with their hand instead of with their keyboard. It just works. I get handwritten stuff from people and maybe it doesn't impact me the way it impacts other people. I think it's nice, but I'm so used to it that I guess I don't notice it the way other people do, but that's the most important way. The second thing is just continuing to show up for one reason or another besides your own self-interest. People will tell you all sorts of things about themselves, it's not a mystery, right? They advertise half of it on social media, the other half you can pick up by having conversations with them. But they'll tell you all sorts of things, right. How did I know that you were a hockey player? Well, because I asked you about it because I saw it on your profile. So I could talk hockey with you all day long. I can tell you how incredibly disappointed I am that once again that the Edmonton Oilers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. I'm so tired of my hometown team being a bunch of losers, but anyway, I won't get into that. That's the thing, is like people tell you all sorts of useful information about themselves, you've just got to write it down when they tell you and then you have excuses to talk to them again.
I have to think of how my 20-year-old self was. But I would say get a lot more curious and a lot less rushed to get to the quick answer of why things are the way they are. It's a funny thing, Lori, I'm 41 and I feel like I have more time left on the clock. Even though chronologically I'm 20 or 21 years removed from that experience, I felt like I had less time left on the clock back then. Part of the reason is how enriched my life is by the personal relationships that I have. If you want anything that's an indicator of the likelihood that you will live to a ripe old age, in great health, and depart this planet surrounded by people who care about you and have nothing but nice things to say about you, it's the quality of the relationships that you're building today. People are not organisms to be analyzed in a lab, they're living breathing stories and the person who cares enough to learn about those stories. Now, we don't have time to learn each other's entire biography from cradle to grave, but I could give you enough time to learn what's been going well for you in the last few weeks, what's your current struggle and what are you looking forward to in the future? Those are questions I could ask so the person who has the ability to treat people that way, consistently everywhere they go will never lack for friends. I was so the opposite of that when I was 20 because I was just so self-absorbed and self-involved and so conditioned to think of myself and others the opposite way that life was meaningless and there wasn't anything to it. The reality we all have these stories, we have these unique things that no one else has lived or experienced quite the same way we have. If you can hold on to that, and never lose your curiosity about it, I think it's probably one of the most potent ingredients of a long life well lived and I wish I could go back until my 20-year-old self that and have him understand it.
You said that you've got an offer for our listeners. Can you talk a little bit about that real quick and how our listeners can access that?
Yes, the book is called Influencer Networking Secrets, published by my good friends at Morgan James publishing. I can feel over time that I'm going to need to issue probably a second or third edition of this because networking just keeps getting more and more interesting. It basically lays out a very simple blueprint, both of how to be, as well as how to do. So there are practical tips in there that you may need to take and tailor to your unique experience. But they flow from overarching, unchanging principles that are built into the planet we live on in the universe we live in, that have not changed for 1000s of years and they form the cornerstone of all success, I think that you see going on in the world is all takes place because at least two or more people are involved cooperating with each other. I found that to be a tremendously useful way of building my business. The digital copy will be available to any listener who wants it. If you'd like a physical copy, feel free to reach out to me via social media and I can run that way as well. Or if you want to go the old-fashioned route, you can buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Connect with Paul
Shannon is the Executive Director of The Community, a nonprofit he founded while incarcerated to foster the successes, humanity, and agency of people with criminal records. He is also Co-Owner of Paradigm Shyft, a new Second Chance employment consulting agency that trains incarcerated people prior to release and helps employers benefit from this untapped pool both while incarcerated and post-release.
Three days after turning 15 years old, Adam was involved in a gang-related homicide and received a life sentence. He would become the youngest inmate within the walls of Wisconsin's most violent adult prison. But over the following 23 years of incarceration, he would renounce his gang membership and work tirelessly to keep teenagers from joining gangs. Today, Adam is dedicated to providing those released with the resources needed to succeed and making our community a safer place.
What exactly does Second Chance employment mean and why should people care about it?
Shannon: So second chance employment basically just refers to helping people who have gone through the justice system get employed after that experience. So it can be anyone who was sentenced to probation, sentenced to some years in prison, or as in Adam's case life in prison. One statistic that, to me, is the only conversation that needs to really be had when it comes to, what do we do when it comes to people coming out of prison and people that have criminal records, is that 95% of people who go to prison, come back. So who do we want them to be when they return to our communities, because they're going to be coming, regardless of what a person thinks, or what anyone believes in terms of their political ideology, they're going to return. So we should at least have a process set up to incorporate the value they have as human beings and as employers and as citizens as much as possible. So second chance employment is all about how do we best do that?
Adam: Just to expound a little bit on what Shannon said, If 95% of the people that are going to prison come home, we should care about it. Because eventually, at some point, 95% of the people that have been incarcerated might be your neighbor. So do we want that neighbor to be somebody who can contribute successfully to society or do we want that somebody to be someone that feels ostracized has to go back to what they used to do because nobody will hire them? A lot of people who have gotten out of prison have children, and in no way is it an excuse to commit crimes if you can't provide food for your family, but we have to look at it realistically and understand that okay, if John Doe has served his time or her time, and they want to contribute to society, but nobody will hire them, what are they going to do? Again, no justification, but we have to really start looking at things logically.
What has been the experience of companies and people in general who have hired from the justice impacted community?
Shannon: So one thing I want to point out with that is that term is really interesting because there's a lot of debate within the advocacy groups and justice reform groups and abolition groups and all the other terms that go around this kind of word and really just comes down to people that have gone through the carceral side of the system, you've got justice impacted, system impacted justice-involved, there's a number of terms. That's one thing, I would definitely want to encourage anyone who's looking at it to not get too scared by what terms do I use or what language is appropriate? I think people would generally be very open to somebody just asking, "How do I refer to this population?" The heart is usually the most important thing. So that's one thing I want to touch on is the language can sometimes be a barrier for people when it comes to getting involved in a lot of things and the way the world is operating now with a lot of areas opening up for groups that have traditionally been disadvantaged to some degree. The numbers kind of speak for themselves, and you have the second chance business coalition has been put together and they have a number of companies, big-time companies, Kroger, Walmart, MasterCard, McDonald's, Amazon, they've all signed on as supporting this, and showing that they are really behind the value this population brings, and really trying to incorporate them. 82% of managers report that the value of Second Chance employees brings to the organization is as high as or higher than that of workers without records bring. It's something that we hear a lot too from organizations that get people jobs, and they get out. Even on work release, which we both experienced inside before we were currently in prison working at free jobs, is that there's a hunger, there's a humility, there's a desire to really show and get our life back that you get from workers that are formerly incarcerated that you don't always get from people who have been out in the world and kind of take a lot of things for granted. So both the numbers and our experience that we've seen personally and from groups that we work with, who get people jobs, shows that there's a significant value behind this population being hired not just as charity, but to help everyone grown and help out their bottom lines.
What happens if there's still discrimination based on criminal history if that's the way companies are looking at things?
Adam: I think it kind of goes back to what I was referencing earlier. What happens if that's the case? Let's say somebody with a criminal background applied for a job, they turn them down, and or continue to get turned down, what does that look like for them? So what does going dark look like? What does somebody do? So I think when you ask what happens, I feel and this is truly unfortunate, in my opinion, but I feel another victim is going to be creative because what other options are there? If they cannot work to provide that food or shelter for their family what does that look like? And so many times people just disregard that. They just kind of say, well, they shouldn't have made that mistake. But I'm a firm believer in whatever sentence you have shouldn't necessarily be deemed as a life sentence. If you're sentenced to five years in prison for whatever crime and you get out, if you can't get a job because of that record it becomes a de facto life sentence and that's unacceptable.
How can companies approach finding second chance employees?
Adam: They approach one of the many re-entry organizations that are in Milwaukee currently. Us, for instance, Partners and Hope, we are constantly bombarded by employers saying, "Look, we need workers, we just need somebody that's going to show up, day in and day out and work hard, we're willing to pay them well." One of the biggest myths I think people who have been incarcerated are told is that nobody's gonna hire them when they get out. Right now, at least in Milwaukee, in this jobs boom, it's the exact opposite. We can pretty much store our rock and find an employer willing to hire somebody. For a lot of people, whether they're in work release status, or Huber status, those are people that they know, for a fact are going to show up, unlike a lot of the other employees. So right now it's the best time in recent memory, in my opinion, for those who are with criminal records can get employed.
I would imagine on a national level, that there are resources available for that?
Shannon: There's a variety of resources. The things that I've seen, that I've encountered, that I find reliable, are kind of reaching out to some of those that can connect you to others. So Adam's organization, Partners in Hope, and mine in The Community, we very much are hubs where you can come to us we have a variety of partners. We're very deep into this space, in the city, and statewide and even nationally. The https://secondchancebusinesscoalition.org/ have a lot of little resources, a lot of advice, things for you to go to and organizations can then kind of have more of a boutique approach. So if you are trying to just get information on maybe an organization to contact or some stuff to read and get a better understanding of things. That's what stuff like Second Chance business coalition will help with or some of the other state entities, there's a lot of resource directories and so forth. But then if you really want to understand how to deal with individuals, the micro-level, that's where we would come in and be able to help incorporate and even attract, retain and train and retain talent. We have a whole pipeline of people coming out that we're connecting with to get them trained so that they will be really prepared to enter job fields and have connections with organizations and industries before they get out. So there's that loyalty concept as well. Honestly, you can reach out to us, and we probably can connect anybody in the state with where they're trying to go and what they need help with in this regard for hiring for this population.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Shannon: I have a number of them because when I was inside, I was immensely blessed to just have people who would allow me to make three-way phone calls. So the organization itself began because of a small donation we had from an executive director of an organization called Hudson Link in New York, and they were one of the preeminent higher education prison programs in the country at that time. So just doing that reaching out to him and staying in touch with him and then he donated to help the organization get going and donated along the way. He's just been a really powerful advocate and resource since 2013 back when I first connected with him. So that was one when I was in and when I got out, clubhouse. A friend of mine who I knew in high school, I just was talking to him about a trucking company that I had set up with a friend. At the time I didn't know what I was gonna do and he was like, "Let me connect you on clubhouse, there's this trucking guru." I didn’t know what I was doing, I just got on there and right away from that, I made so many connections nationally, in the work that we do that is really just borne fruit. It's just been really cool how the craziest things are just you go down an alley and find yourself in a palace sometimes.
Adam: For me, if I had to describe my life, and success so far be at the results of networking. For me, one of the sessions that we run here is called Building Bridges with Law Enforcement, where we invite officers all the way up from rookie to inspector within the MPD to come to humanize the badge. We give our guys that have gotten out of prison, a chance to humanize the tattoo, so to speak. We create a safe space for conversation to be held so we can look at each other as human beings. One of these sessions there was at the time, a Captain that attended and she has since been promoted to inspector. She now is the supervisor of the police academy and last year with all the George Floyd and Blake situations, there's definitely a need for better relationships between the community and the police department. So that connection led me to meet the captain at the police academy and we came to a decision on how to best combine those who have gotten out of prison with those just entering the police department. So we came up with this idea where I was introduced and went undercover at the police academy. My name was Lieutenant Smith from Detroit and I kind of just gave myself a chance to humanize myself without the preconceived biases of incarceration. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life and it all came from a session that we did here that led to one step further and one step further beyond that.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network?
Shannon: For me, it's just been a matter of always trying to make sure that I'm connecting people to other people or resources that I see they need. Because then that fuels them to in turn, remember me when something comes about that they would find to be valuable to the work I'm doing or any projects I have or even like in my career in general. So it's always about putting myself out there for them first, and then trusting the process that it will come back around. Even if it doesn't you're still helping people that you've, for whatever reason found a connection to, and by then helping their work, it's just helping you still, because that's the whole goal is to have a macro view of the way we're operating instead of the transactional way which is a terrible way to operate the world. It'll come back to me, even if it doesn't because you directly offer something to me, you're just doing your work and doing good by the connection I made, the resource I provided or the help I gave you is going to help us in general, because I believe in what you're doing.
Adam: For me, I would say, given the job title that I have now, community outreach specialist, networking and keeping those relationships active is paramount to the success of my role within this organization. I think it boils down to little things, just being a human being and accepting others as human beings as well. So as crazy and as simple as it sounds like I go back to those lessons I learned in the sandbox of just play nice with others, seem interested, be interested, and it might be off the topic of whatever current meeting you might be in, but I feel relationship building is a pivotal part of network building. Nobody's going to remember someone that just looks at you as a means to an end, I think you really have to look at the person as a person, which seems like an odd thing to say. I feel it's extremely important to humanize one another because I think that sticks in people's minds in the end.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
Shannon: It's an interesting question because, for me, I feel that anyone that I look at it and they give me a sense of, "I wish I could talk to that person," just in my experience. Also, I'm kind of a baby, I've only been out now for eight months. But my degree is in business and I've read countless pieces of literature about how the world operates in this sense. So I feel like I'm versed enough to say this, that on the way to meeting that person through the six degrees, one of those degrees is going to be more interesting and more valuable in the person I felt like I was trying to get to. So it would be more so that I'd be wanting to reach that person with the intent of finding out who really is going to be more intriguing and more connected to or aligned with what I'm trying to do in life along the way. Again, just trusting that process. I like to explore, I think I'm just gonna find the thread and pull on it and I don't think that going for the ultimate specific person that I think is going to be who I want to talk to, is the best way to go.
Adam: To answer that, I kind of have to help you understand what it feels like to have served 23 years in prison. Prison is a very dehumanizing place so I find that even today, I sometimes struggle with anything is possible. Even though I know that consciously, sometimes I feel not, actually, I'll take a step back before I answer my own thought. Inside everything kind of looks like it's a movie so when you watch the news, or you watch a movie or TV show, it all seems foreign, you don't necessarily feel as though you're a part of society. So now that I'm out, sometimes I have to tell myself you can contact whomever you want to. There is that avenue for that and I've realized in the two and a half years that I've been released, that the six degrees of separation concept are very accurate. I can only speak to really Milwaukee at this point, but I feel that there are very few people in Milwaukee that I couldn't contact within someone in my social circle. Then taking that nationally, I feel depending on the circumstance, the same would probably apply. I feel you have to have a give or a reason to reach out to some of these individuals. But I think at the end of the day, it's possible. I don't know if I put a name on the person I want to meet, but it would definitely be a large investor because I feel if we had the funds to do what we needed to do, we could truly save some lives. So rather than approaching a person for a reason, there will probably be a foundation that has the means to help us financially and make our community a safer place.
Do either of you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Shannon: I think really just if you have any interest in the field that we're in, and in hiring from this population, and connecting to the pipeline of people we are working on right now, just contact us. We have a lot of experience and connections in this space to be of value to a person if this sparked their interest.
Adam: I guess the last thing I would suggest is we get that people who have been incarcerated at the end of the day, they've heard somebody and you can't uncry those tears of that pain caused. So we get it, but at the end of the day, knowing that 95% of the people that come out, are going to in some way need to make the society a better place and so we just want to ask people, for those of you who are thinking about are contemplating hiring somebody with a criminal background, would you want to be held responsible for the worst mistake you ever made in your life, and have that held against you forever? Again, not taking away from the pain and harm that people have caused, we get it. But at some point, if we're truly invested in making our community a safer place, we have to start looking at things a little bit differently. Hopefully, at some point, everyone can give those who have made a mistake, a second chance.
Connect with Shannon & Adam
The Community: https://thecommunitynow.us/
Community Warehouse: https://www.thecommunitywarehouse.org/
She is the President of Evolution Marketing, a Wisconsin-based women-owned certified B Corporation specializing in the area of global sustainability consulting and storytelling, environmentally responsible creative design, and ethical marketing.
I keep hearing about the social side of sustainability, but I thought sustainability was only about recycling and addressing environmental issues. Can you define that for us?
In all sincerity, the average American really believes that when you say sustainability, you're talking about the environmental side. True sustainability comes in a holistic manner and what that means we like to talk about it as like three legs of a stool. So those three legs of the stool are people which would be the social side. So that equates to corporate social responsibility. Planet would be the environmental stewardship side, which is the environmental side. Then profit or economic viability would be making sure that the business you're doing is making money while you're doing sustainability. So all three of those parts interconnected together are what true holistic sustainability is. So you can't really address an environmental issue without also addressing the people side, or the community side or the supply chain side. So everything is all connected together. Here's the definition that I really love because it puts it pretty clearly: Sustainability means ensuring prosperity and environmental protection without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. So really, at its heart, it's all about people.
Why is it important for businesses to begin addressing and adopting sustainable business strategies and actions?
It kind of goes back to what we were just talking about with COVID. The reality is, Americans today want business to solve social problems. 20 years ago, Americans expected government and or nonprofits to solve the world's problems or the social problems that we have in our communities. But after the last couple of years in this United States, there's a lot of data that talks about how consumer attitudes have changed, and specifically Americans attitudes have changed, saying that they really want business to be the one to solve social problems. If you look at what happened Last year, business was the one that really jumped up or stood up in many cases to address not all their worker issues, but address community sustainability. So I would say transparency is a big part of this. Customers, consumers, the public, want to know what a business is doing, and that's why I think sustainability strategies are really important right now because they help to tell the story of the actions that you're taking in your organization.
If I want to get help to make sure my business was more sustainable, are there references available? Do you have resources for Wisconsin and even beyond?
I am a walking resource for sustainability because I love sustainability and its parcel to what our business does! So if you're in the state of Wisconsin and your listener, we have a program, it's through the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. It's called the Green Masters Program which was established in 2009. Evolution Marketing, actually, was one of the original 13 businesses to pilot the program. What it is, is it's an assessment and recognition program for Wisconsin businesses interested in improving and being recognized for their sustainability initiatives. So what it means is, if you've never done anything and sustainability, and you're kind of looking for the on-ramp on like, where do you begin to learn about sustainability and what you could do in your business, I would say, go check out https://www.wisconsinsustainability.com/ and then go to the Green Masters tab on the website and you can actually download the questions. So the program runs all year round. For new businesses is free to apply until October 31 2021 and if you're an existing business, who already participates in the program, it's free to apply before August 31. So after August 31, you pay a small fee, which isn't in the grand scheme of things a big deal. Then we close the program on November 1, and in December at our annual conference, which happens to take place in Wisconsin, we announce the Green Masters Companies. So those are the 20% of the companies that apply to the program, who are the top score getters. With the program, there are three levels, and the apprentice level is the beginning. So as long as you're taking one action, each of the nine different areas of sustainability, you can come in at the apprentice level. As I said, it's a recognition program so it really helps you to start on your trip, and then on your road to sustainability. Then over time, you can compare your year-by-year data. So if you're a company like mine, we've been a Master Company for several years and each year, we benchmark against the previous year for our data. We use that as a way to do improvements within our organization. So that's a free program if you're a Wisconsin business, and if you're new to the program, the first year is free and the second year, as long as you apply by August 31 is still free to participate. Then there's this program called the B Impact Assessment. This is for national companies and global companies. So there's part of this Certified B Corp movement and what that means is the BIA (B Impact Assessment) is a global tool that is free for any business in the world to go and to use. I don't know how many countries we're in right now, I think we're in over 50 countries that have companies that have become Certified B Corp and there's 4000 of us now in the world. So your business gets audited through completing this BIA and it is free if you don't want to get certified. So all of the questions for the BIA are there, you can go and you can put your information in, and you have to get a minimum score of 80 points in order to qualify to become certified. So again, if you're a little bit more advanced in the sustainability realm or if you're in the UK, or you're in Mexico, and you want to look at what's the global tool that's out there, the B Impact Assessment is free. Last year 46,000, businesses were new to it, and they put their information. Now, granted, they didn't all try to become certified, but I think that's really amazing! That shows that this is a global movement, and more and more businesses are wanting to see kind of where they're at across the globe. It's based on a global way of looking at sustainability, which is awesome!
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Again, I love sustainability. So for me, I really enjoy going to conferences, workshops, webinars, really any event tied to sustainability. For me, finding like-minded folks or people who might think the same way I think or who are working in the same space is just is wonderful. The discipline of sustainability is relatively new, we're only 15 years old. So it's been more challenging for me to network, especially when I started Evolution Marketing, 14 years ago, there weren't a lot of folks in Wisconsin that were engaged in the sustainability space. So for me going to our Wisconsin Steel Business Council, we have a conference over December, that will always be my favorite networking event of the year, because I get to go and see everyone I know in the state and some folks from other states, too who are engaged in sustainability. This group, especially women in the group has been my foundation, as I've grown my business. Because again, being in a new discipline, it's a little bit more challenging to find colleagues to network with. So I'm really happy that we've been able to grow that space through our WSBC. My friend Jessie and I started a group called Women and Sustainability in 2014 which is another group of women who are working in sustainability in Wisconsin, and we network across that group as well. So to me, it's having folks that are working in the same space as me, that's been my best way to network. Because they understand the challenges and the ups and downs, of what goes into sustainability.
Regardless of the size of your network, it's important to stay in front of and nurture these relationships. How do you best do that?
What we've done is we send newsletters out to all of our clients, as well as our colleagues and friends. In those newsletters, we share resources and tell really good impact stories. We try to help our network be more informed about what's going on in the space because there are a lot of things happening really quickly in sustainability because it is such a new discipline. So really doing the E-newsletters on a regular basis, we do basically every two months, we do an E-newsletter, I think that's been super useful. But the other thing is getting out and doing speaking. For years, I've done public speaking programs or engagements at conferences, events, and community-level events talking about different facets of sustainability. I'm amazed at the things that the public I think they know that they don't know or the questions that the public has. So that's helped me become a better marketer for sustainability products. Sometimes you're in your own space, and you know what you know, but you don't always know what's going on outside of that space, meaning the community. So I can tell you a story if you want! A couple of years ago, the Waukesha County Green Team reached out and they said, "Hey, Lisa, we're doing our countywide sustainability fair in August and we'd like you to be a speaker at the program." I said, "Okay, great! What would you like to speak about?" They're like, "We really want you to talk about sustainable shopping," and I was like, "Sustainable shopping?! Let’s unpack this a bit." As we were talking, it came out that they wanted me to talk about certifications that are on products. So when people go shopping, they know if the product is environmentally responsible, or socially responsible. I was like, "Oh, sure that makes sense to me," and then they kind of went through the rest of the speakers for the day. All of the speakers were highlighting different facets of sustainability, to help the general public who came to the event to learn more and to basically use their money in a better and more environmentally socially responsible manner. So there was education about yard care and not spraying chemicals and all of the different things that if you want to live a sustainable lifestyle you could do. So I put together this program and as I was working on it, I realized that there are over 3500 certifications out there for sustainability for products. That's crazy, right? So I'm like, Alright, what are the top 10 that I think are the most important. So I built my talk around that and I gave it the sustainability fair. The room was standing room only and everybody loved to talk. After that talk, I have given that same talk over 20 times now to other groups. Now, when I put the program together, I thought this is interesting, this is neat, it's about certifications. I was on a podcast where literally I talked about the entire talk I gave on a podcast. This messaging about third-party certifications and what they mean and how that can impact your product buying or your food buying, that is huge! I already knew this information, but I didn't think it was something that the public was craving. I have been proven wrong like the public loves this topic and it really showed me that sometimes even the most basic things about sustainability, most people don't know. So I thought that was a good eye-opener for me and also now when I do community engagement, that's one of the topics I bring in.
I laugh, because when I was in my early 20s, I was like, gotta get a degree, gotta go to graduate school, education, education, education. Looking at the state of the workforce today, I have some really great data at my fingertips and one of the projections that we've seen which we've talked about for a couple of years is that by 2025, 73% of jobs in Wisconsin will not require a four-year degree. So I think back to when I was 20 and I was like, go to undergrad, get my degree, go to graduate school, education is so important. Now I look at my nephew who's 19 and I'm like, "You know what? You can go out and work in the work world, you don't have to have a degree," because so many jobs today are training their workforce and there are so many different types of opportunities that a four-year degree is not required anymore. You can get a certificate, you can get an associate's degree, so many more options exist. So I think my advice would be that, maybe, because everyone tells you this is how it is, it's not what you needed to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went to graduate school and I'm glad I had the experiences I had. But I think so much has changed in the nature of work from the time I was 20 till now and I think younger people who are listening to this podcast, and even employers, I think we all need to really be aware of the fact that so much more of the training today can happen in the workplace. We do the same thing, all of my interns have they go through sustainability training with me and it just a different way of looking at things, but I think it's a better way for the future that we're looking at right now. Especially because there are 7.5 million jobs that are being unfilled right now. So I think putting barriers in place saying somebody that works for you has to have a four-year degree or has to have an advanced degree, I think that that's unrealistic when we look at the future of how do we attract and retain talent.
Sustainability resources available to listeners:
Social Sustainability: https://greenmkting.com/social-sustainability
Environmental Sustainability: https://greenmkting.com/environmental-sustainability
Economic Viability: https://greenmkting.com/economic-viability
Free tools: https://greenmkting.com/free-tools
Connect with Lisa
Evolution Marketing’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/evolution-marketing-llc/
Duncan is the CEO of Littlefield, a company that owns companies such as the Littlefield Company, Paper Airplane Sidecar who are critical equity partner contributors to profit-focused companies. The engine of his company is the Littlefield Company, where they tell under-told stories by delivering scalable content for purpose-driven companies. Plus, he's on a mission to always be a part of the larger conversation and to support everyone to become obsessed with their own unique life.
What is the importance of story when it comes to marketing for a business?
It's one of the things that we recognized as we kind of dug deeper into what we really do well, is that side of the story. Every business owner started a company for a reason. They wanted to connect to an audience, they wanted to sell something, they wanted to be a part of the community, whatever it was. We really want to tell those under-told stories that people don't know about. You walk into a company, and you can put two things together to recognize what they do and why they do it, but there's always a deeper meaning. There's always that thing that can have somebody sparked on attention and build their trust to be a lifelong guest. So it's one of those things where we want to tell those under-told stories that make them stand out against the competition, but also at that point, earn a consumer’s trust. Once you earn that trust, you can have an ask which can be to buy or to donate or show up. That's really where we wanted to lean into is just focusing on the story and not have been so focused on budget or camera equipment, or anything else, it's just let's tell incredible stories, that have people walk through the door and saying, "How can I be a part of this, and how can I help you grow it?" That's where we're, we're so fortunate to be in with some incredible partners who, that's all we care about. It's just the story.
How do you create team and collaboration within your core values?
We focus on letting everyone have some confidence and not the ego. Very early on in the company, we recognize that every story we make, every video we create, every story we get to tell is not ours. So if you look at our portfolio from our website, we've only added roughly six company logos in just two videos in our company's history and all of those six videos are for us. Everything else, we don't put a logo on. We don't want to take the attention away from that partner story because we really believe that yes, like, are we the ones creating it and potentially molding the story? Yeah, but the reality is, it's not our story. So we really have this collective mission as a team to kind of check the ego at the door, and say, "We are really big believers in our core values," and those core values are, bring your best, be your DNA, be positive, and show up for each other. Those four things are not rooted in, I want to be the best person or the best director or the best cinematographer or get my credit here or here, it really goes, "Hey, how can I be a part of the bigger conversation, help a company tell their story to earn their trust and have a lifelong guest." We're collaborative, too, potentially to a fault at times, because it takes us a little longer to build the creative because we have so many internal meetings about it. It's we have so many internal meetings about conversations or companies that we're trying to build stories for or understand companies or brands to then at that point, it could slow us down, because there are so many times where you work with a single cinematographer videographer, and they're like, "Cool, give me 24 hours, and I can create a game plan, we can do this, this and this," because they don't need to talk with 15 people about it. That's where we really go is we want to make sure that we have all ideas on the table and we're really focused on that team effort and it's something that I'm very proud of, honestly. We want to have guys and gals have confidence in what they do, but the bigger picture is we want to make sure our partners have incredible stories to let them drive their businesses and if they drive their businesses, our business will follow up because we've made a great partnership.
It looks like you've worn the professional athlete hat in your life a little bit. How does that experience carry into business ownership?
Yeah, I did. I'm fortunate again, I kind of referenced it earlier, but I feel like I'm one of the luckiest guys in the world. The fact that you just said, I've also worn a professional athlete hat is only more credit to the fact that I believe, I'm the luckiest person out there. Being a professional athlete was an amazing experience. I played golf at the mini-tour level. So I was traveling around the country gambling for a living, it wasn't five-star jets, and hotels and all this stuff taking care of for me and playing for a million dollars a week. We were playing for 5-10 grand and if you didn't bet on yourself in the right week, you were going home empty-handed with other fees and other expenses. It really made you focus on the bigger and I think that's one of the things that really helps me Because right now, you know when I was a professional athlete hitting golf balls and driving range, I was working on something to show up in my golf career and show up under pressure three years from that moment. I have a very similar outlook on business, like everything I'm doing right today is going to show up in business practice and development two-three years from now potentially longer. Because we're just laying the foundation for where we're going. It also taught me more about connections and people than ever, ever learned about the game of golf. It was collaborative. Golf is not a sport where like when we get on the tee box and the guns go off we're trying to beat each other, like crazy, but we come together at the end, and we shake hands and go grab a meal together afterward. In my opinion, that's the way business should be. It's I'm not trying to be better than any business, I'm just trying to be the best version of myself. I'm trying to have my business and my team be the best version of their self today and that goes back to like our core values, be your DNA. Right now, today is the best version of yourself because you can't experience tomorrow, and you've become better than yesterday, you've learned more than yesterday so right now, the minute where n is the best version of yourself. So if you can't show up and be your unique DNA, then you know what, go look in the mirror and make sure you come together and try to be the best version of yourself, to help somebody, to build something, to grow something. The other thing about it is I learned how to work really hard. Being a professional athlete, you put everything at it. My goal is to be the number one player in the world and I failed at that goal, I did not reach that goal. But I'm really thrilled that I failed at it and I'm really thrilled that I'm currently not sitting on the couch, watching my buddies win millions on tour, and going, "Oh, I wish." I'm really fortunate that I had the realization that I got to move on, I got to do something different and I'm really happy where I've landed because it's a blast.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
This is gonna sound kind of funny, but COVID has is a terrible thing and has affected so many people and so many just detrimental things. But the ability for the world to come together over zoom, or Google meets, or really wherever has been an amazing opportunity for us. So I mean, there are countless times where I have been on zoom calls that have been so positive and supportive and collaborative. I can honestly say that I have met some of the best people and some of my now what I would consider Dear Dear friends and business partners over zoom and virtual happy hours over the last year. It's one of those things where the world kind of came to everyone if they wanted it to come to you. There's a great group that happens every other Thursday and they started off with like, 20 people in a room and now there's like 400 people that are on the list, and at least a few 100 people show up every week now just to collaborate and talk about VCs and venture-backed companies and tech, and it's just an amazing opportunity for the world to kind of come together and be collaborative, even if they're not in the same city. You look at the meetings from before COVID and you had a couple of meetings a day, you ran around for a cup of coffee, and you're like, "Man, that was a really busy day with four people," and now it's like, alright, you do four people in an hour and a half. I'm not saying I'm fortunate for COVID, because that's just a terrible thing, but for how the world has opened up to allow people to kind of open their arms and bring people together through zoom, and the digital age has been the ultimate networking experience for me across the board over the last year. There was a time in COVID, where we did this thing called a marketing campaign called eight to five, where I literally left my zoom open, live from eight to five every single day, Monday through Friday. What the concept started as was just an internal team thing, where anyone can pop into our kind of virtual living room and say, "Hey, ask questions, talk to me," whatever it is. So it was really cool when I was there by myself just working away and then all of a sudden, two team members would go cool, let's go to the living room and chat and I would literally put myself on mute cause they would have a conversation. It was so cool, but then at that point, we opened it up to everybody. We sent it out, we said, "Hey, please come join us whenever you want, just pop in, here's the link, this will be open from eight to five every day." So like when I went to have lunch or have a coffee meeting, we put just a blank screen up that says like, "Hey, out at lunch," and I would come back and we had friends from childhood pop on and even my mom got on their once. So that was an experience, but we had people come from different businesses and different companies that we supported. And like we built videos for and stories for, and then all of a sudden like they're talking and figuring out how to collaborate. It was a really fun time.
How do you stay in front of them best nurture your network in your community?
I think it's perfect timing because I don't know if you recognize this, but I have stayed silent on social media for the last three and a half years. I haven't posted on my own personal social media since October 9th of 2017. It's funny to think that I'm the CEO of a content company and I haven't posted on a single thing on my personal page in over three and a half years. But yesterday was the very first day that I am back online and we put a post out and now we're prepared and we are organized to not have it stop. So I think the best way to nurture and build community in your networking is again, it's a matter of who you are and what your DNA is. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and go, "What's right for me." Right now the world and the algorithms will tell you video is the king, but if you're terrible on video, you might not want to go on video. If you're a great writer then just double down on a blog, really lean into Twitter, all these different things to recognize that here's where your strength is. I would say in the way you nurture and what you build is if you want to become a leading expert, then figure out the right way to talk about it, and figure out the right way that's right for you because if you enjoy it, you won't fight it. I'm dyslexic so if you told me that I needed to write a blog every day, four hours of my day would be gone. I would hate it, it'd be miserable, but if you say, "Just put a two-minute video out every single day," I can do that in three minutes. I don't need to plan for it, I flip the camera on and I can talk.
I think patience would be a great word. When I played golf I thought I needed to be at the top of the world when I was 30. Recognizing that it's a 40-year career is tough for a 25-year-old who thinks he knows everything. So for me right now, I recognize that to achieve my goal for where I want to go, it's going to take 40, maybe 50 years, but I'm very much up and prepared for it. Then I would also say, experience. Understand where you want to go look at yourself in the mirror, be good with yourself, be self-aware about where you want to go and how much you want to sacrifice for it. Are you willing to sacrifice everything for something and if you are, man, don't let anyone stop you? Put positive people who can believe and celebrate you for who you are because then at that point, you're gonna be able to change the world, or you're gonna make the biggest impact on someone's life. So patience would be the big one as well. That's maybe the biggest one because recognizing that we get to play a game that's not like the NFL or the NBA when your career is over in the ballpark of 35-40. But, you and I get to build businesses for the next 40 years, potentially. I kind of joked that yesterday was the first day of the next 40 years of posting online every single day. We put up the second one today and it was okay to down 40 years to go. It's going to be bigger and I'm really excited about getting myself a little more patience even though I work 12 straight hours a day and I love what I do and all that kind of stuff, but to recognize that I have the patience to achieve the goal that I'm going after is different than when I was 24 and trying to conquer the golf world.
Connect with Duncan:
Brad has been supporting and improving the lives of those around him for over four decades. He has brought perspective and context into every role he has had. Having been in manufacturing for most of his adult career, he has forged relationships by learning what matters to the people. In doing so, Brad was able to master the art of change management. Working with family-owned blue-collar businesses as a customer and supplier, Brad understands both sides of the industry creating growth and wealth.
In your line of work, you do a lot with regard to accountability and setting expectations. Can you speak to our listeners a little bit about why it's so important to have set expectations and accountability?
It's important for multiple reasons. When you look at it from a business owner’s perspective, it's important to know what your team is going to accomplish, not so much the tasks that they need to do, but what are the results that you're looking for? And clearly communicating that expectation because as humans, we really don't want to disappoint people that are really not in most people's natures are disappointed or upset. So when we have clear expectations, we know what we're working towards on a regular basis. So we're clear on what we need to achieve, we know what others are expecting from us and it makes life just so much easier to know. If you knew what you were expecting for dinner every night, if it was planned out every night, for the rest of your life, that conversation that happens of what's for dinner and that whole big mess that happens in many, many households just don’t happen because you know you have a plan, you know what the expectations are. And it just makes life a little bit easier when you know what the expectations are. On the accountability side, it is important to allow us to know as employees and or as owners, what you're accountable to do, what that result really means. So if you're accountable to make sure that the driveway gets poured, and it's finished the customer satisfaction if you're a concrete guy, you now know what you're accountable for and what that responsibility looks like and you're given the authority along with that accountability to make sure that you can deliver those results. That's where a lot of disconnect ends up happening is we tend to give the accountability without necessarily the authority to make those decisions or use the resources appropriately to allow the result to happen.
What is the turnaround when you see business owners start enacting expectations and accountability as far as the challenges that they're experiencing with their business?
The first challenge is to get the owners to understand what the expectations are from a results perspective. Most are so task-focused, I want you to make 30 calls a day, I want you to see 10 customers, I want you to pick 15 lines of orders every hour. So we're so focused on the task that we lose focus on what the result is. That's where we start stemming the creativity problem to allow people to be creative solution problem solvers. So the first step is to get the owner to think about the results. Once they define the results and they get them documented and we get the position agreement and alignment and have the employee-employer conversation, there's this big weight lifted off of people's shoulders, because they now know what's expected. They come into work and they do that thing to focus on those results and the noise and the garbage that everybody goes and works on every day goes away. It doesn't actually go away, it just gets refocused into more positive energy because we're not focusing on the minutia, we're focusing on the bigger picture. Instead of the did you make the 25 phone calls? No, I made 15 phone calls, but I got $300,000 worth of proposals written with those 15 phone calls. So the number of phone calls didn't matter, the proposal writing was what mattered.
There's this major challenge that's faced with regards to recruiting and attracting especially that Gen Z crowd. How can companies go about and do a better job of getting that audience to want to work within their organization?
So this may sound really weird, but the Gen Z kids that are 24 and younger right now, they will likely be as loyal as the boomers were if you give them a reason to be loyal. So being able to set your expectations, show them a career path. Yep, you might start them at $12, $13, or whatever that number is, but if you can show them the path, to get from A to B to C to D, over a period of time, they will stay and they will have a sense of purpose. They will know what they're working towards and what they're working for. Versus historically, many would say, "Hey, kid, come in here, go do the slop work and in 30 years, you'll be a master machinist, and good luck to you." Kids nowadays aren't looking at 30 years, they're looking at 2, 3, 5 years so if you can show them the path to go from 12 to 15, to 20 to 25, that's where that results-based accountability aspects of running your business can now show them how to get from A to B much sooner because maybe you're manufacturing guy and your machine is quality rate might be 400 ppm. If somebody can run it at two, well, they're worth more to your company so pay them more. Show them the results, if they can demonstrate consistent results over and over again and bring value to the organization, they should be rewarded accordingly, versus time in seat. That's going to be the biggest change for Gen Z is reward based on performance. Not just wisdom, but performance to start with, and show them how to get there quicker and then slowly work in the wisdom piece of that because wisdom and performance typically are inverses of each other.
What's one of the biggest opportunities you see for companies today?
It's the Gen Z. The Gen Z kids learn differently, they're quicker at getting many tasks completed. Depending on what the industry is, there are many things that are different. Skilled Trades as an example, not as much exposure, not as much of that common sense application, but they've learned differently. Provided the right opportunities, they'll adapt. They are probably the most adaptable generation that I've seen working within the FIRST Robotics organization and seeing that my kids grow up and what they've had to go through versus what some of my friends that are younger than me and myself had to go through. Far more adaptable, far more open to asking the question, "Why are we doing it this way?" Versus being told to do something, you just did it even though you knew it was wrong. When I first entered the workforce, just do it this way, there was no questioning, you just went ahead and did it. These kids are far more apt to connect, they are the largest connected generation on the planet. A Gen Z kid here in the US versus a Gen Z kid in Europe are probably more connected today in similar experiences from technology and resources and information than any other generation. So the world is wide open and when you want to talk about networking, I mean, just think of all the gaming connections and all the other things as they enter the workforce. It's just mind-blowing how much opportunity exists by bringing in young talent into an organization. You've got to be willing to do it, you gotta be open-minded enough to say, I'm going to out behave my competition.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you've had?
One of my favorite networking experiences was actually one of my most uncomfortable experiences. So one of the associations here in town provides a women's event. I am not a woman, in any way, shape, or form. But I was intrigued by the content that was being delivered. It was an open forum so I get to the event and I'm the only guy at the event. I knew some people that were attending and different things, but it was the most uncomfortable I've ever been in a networking event. However, it was also one of the most rewarding because I had to put my biases down, my guard down, all those judgment things down and look inward into, "Hey, I am the one that's different in this room, how can I use that to my advantage to be able to create relationships and networking opportunities and use the difference as an opportunity versus the same?" People like being comfortable in the same environment when I was very uncomfortable and made some great connections and some great referral opportunities and it was the most uncomfortable I've ever been and I would not change for the world that really changed my mindset about networking moving forward.
How do you stay in front of and nurture the community that you've created?
It's lots of conversations through LinkedIn, connecting on their posts, connecting and commenting on their posts. If I happen to have Facebook connections with them, as well, as an old person, Facebook is kind of the place where I go for social sometimes that are not professional. I've started leveraging my CRM to put in my task reminders, to say, "Hey, I should really contact this person in four months to get together for lunch, or to have a cup of coffee, or to find out how the promotion went," those types of things. So leveraging a CRM tool to stay connected and put those reminders out there are very important. Past colleagues, I will actually make phone calls every three to six months when I'm driving now, in between, because the drive time now is that opportunity to create the connection up to say, "Hey, it's been a while what's going on?" And just get some industry updates, opportunities and just stay connected to various businesses.
What advice would you offer that business professional is really looking to grow their network?
So a couple of weeks ago, I did a video on LinkedIn about the hard sell that happens on LinkedIn all the time, so don't do that. The biggest thing is it be your authentic self. If you can be your authentic self, and you're there to develop a relationship, I have no problem connecting with somebody on LinkedIn or having a 15-minute call just to get to know and understand their business and see what can happen. But if you're going to come out of the gates blazing and pitch me what you're going to sell me or you're just going to come out that way from the get-go, I don't want to talk to you. I don't need to be sold to. I may have people in my network that can help you with but I'm likely not going to be your buyer because you're selling me something that 4,500 other people have probably tried to sell me something and I already have somebody in my network from that perspective. That doesn't mean I don't need somebody else to be a referral partner or network partner to fit a different niche or level or regional area potentially. Be authentic and be pure in your attempt. If you want to tell me you're going to sell me, then tell me you're gonna sell me and we're not going to connect, but don't backdoor that either.
Be less judgmental, as you went through and created relationships. Less posturing to be the smartest person in the room at times. That may have limited some opportunities for me. Going into rooms and judging people based on characteristics or different things without ever getting to know them, whether it was the corporate world or networking in my current line for whatever it was, may have created some limiting opportunities for me long term as I look back on some situations.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
I think it would be a fun conversation, being a local guy to sit down with Bob Uecker to have a half-hour lunch and just listen to him ramble about change and how baseball is different and just listen to some of those old stories in a row versus an inning here or there over the course of an entire season. Just hearing some of that would be fantastic, to be able to sit down with them and have that direct interaction. Could it be done within six? Yeah, cause he's local, I am confident I'm within six to Mr. Uecker. I would probably start that journey within my Delaware North network, here locally, and start within the organization from that and just connect from that perspective.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Connect with me on LinkedIn! I am more than happy to connect with people on LinkedIn and have the opportunity to have a conversation. I wouldn't say my networking is huge, however, I tend to be able to give somebody a connection or two, or create the right connections or have the right conversation to find an opportunity for somebody. I love networking to give people opportunities to meet other folks. I went through my introductions list last year and I made 250 introductions last year.
Connect with Brad:
Having started his first business in fourth-grade programming bulletin board systems, working for Apple Computers as a college freshman, and then founding a computer networking services company employing college classmates while in college, Dave Stamm has been has always been passionate about implementing technology and serving people. Dave is currently the CEO of two technology companies, Stamm Technologies and Stamm Media, and a partner at No Small Magic.
Can you just tell us a little bit about these three different companies that you have?
So the first company that I started in college was Stamm Technologies and we provide outsourced IT services to small and medium-sized companies in Metro Milwaukee and Chicagoland areas. Then we later started Stamm Media as an offshoot. It was a client that we had been working with for years in the IT company and that is Stamm Media and we provide technology services and equipment, to large trade shows and corporate events throughout the country. So we rent audiovisual and IT equipment to mostly fortune 500 companies and then we provide the labor and services to set that stuff up at their various events. So that's the event company and then the third company, No Small Magic we started about five years ago and that is an interactive studio, providing primarily custom boutique software written for these corporate event clients that we've got throughout the country. During the pandemic, we wrote a virtual networking platform called Showboat, which has been our big focus over the last year.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background as it relates to networking and technology?
You bet. So both are passions for me. I started out, I was the geek in grade school before you know being a geek in programming was cool, right? This was in the 80s, I started out programming in grade school and was kind of self-taught, but was smart enough. My dad was a salesman, so I was smart enough to realize that at that time, again, being a geek wasn't cool so you had to kind of keep a lid on it. While it was fun to do, you also had to be social and network which is really kind of the function of early selling. So my first job was when I was 14, I started as a Subway sandwich artist at New Berlin subway and actually, it ended up being that the couple that owned that Subway owned another business, which was an audiovisual event company that served big companies nationwide. So I started working with them when I was young and they taught me the ropes and as I grew, having that networking background and being able to be connected to them and their network, and just working hard and networking with people from when I was young really paid off for me. It's one of the big reasons that we are where we are right now with the three companies.
How is technology enabling networking today and what could be better?
I think over the last year as the pandemic happened, we've all gravitated towards it. All the platforms existed prior to the pandemic, we had zoom, and we had teams, and sure they've added some features, but for the most part, those platforms existed prior to the pandemic. Now we're all using them in our daily lives, whether it's for work, and you're on multiple zoom meetings in a day, or it's kids doing virtual school, or get-togethers or virtual birthday parties, or what have you. We're all living in these new technologies and they're second nature and because of the event business we had, we serve a lot of clients nationwide, we were using these tools prior, but for the most part, we were only ever using audio. Everybody would get into a zoom meeting and shut off their video. Now what's been fun is just the way people are using it and it's the authenticity of being able to use these tools. If your kids are running past or your dogs or your cats are in the shot, nobody cares and everyone is authentic. They're themselves in doing whatever they need to do using these tools and so we realized with No Small Magic, one of the things we realized when the pandemic happened is that we couldn't find a platform aside from zoom or teams that really handled networking well. Sure, you can jump into a virtual happy hour and zoom or teams, but it's all in 2D and you all see yourself in like Brady Bunch view and it felt like there wasn't really a great way to have good networking events. That's why we ended up creating Showboat, which is a 3D environment where you can walk around but you still have the audio and video that you're used to in zoom or teams.
How can businesses better leverage what we see as meeting and networking technologies to better serve existing and reach new customers?
What we're seeing right now is as the world reopens, everybody's trying to figure out are they coming back to the office or are they staying remote? Are they going to be permanently hybrid, and if so how does that work? There are pros and cons to any of those three scenarios so it's kind of figuring out what your own company strategy is. If you go purely hybrid, then people come into the office on Sundays, and then they expect that they're going to come in and see their co-workers and maybe have a pick up meeting in the hallway and then they realize the people they want to see aren't there because they're at home. So it's kind of navigating this new world and so we're seeing technologies being able to improve that and blending the face-to-face in with the virtual, and how can people have that office co-presence between virtual and face-to-face using the technologies that are out there.
Can you share one of your most successful or favorite networking stories?
Networking, for me, has been huge. The quick, broad-brush for me is a lot of the contacts that I made when I was really young, 14 to 18 are a lot of the reason that I'm here where I am today. I had no idea at that time that that would matter. Right. Growing up, you just were taught to treat people well and not realizing that it could come back a decade-plus later and benefit you. You're not doing it for that reason, it's just being kind and genuine and taking care of people and doing what you can to help them as people reciprocate that. A lot of those lessons I learned when I was younger came through and then even when I was starting the IT company, a lot of clients were built upon networking. I joined the MMAC in Milwaukee which is the business Chamber of Commerce and got in there and kept going to meetings and meeting people. At first, it was different, it was kind of like stepping out of your comfort zone and going to networking events that they had and meeting people and starting to work with them and landing a client or two and then leveraging the client network to get other clients. I honestly think that the majority of the reason we have the clients we do and have the three businesses is all related to big networking and small networking. What I mean by that is, a company when I met somebody that was running a business when I was 19 and then approached me in my 30s and asked me if I would acquire them, and we did and helped kind of grow the business. On to the small, when I say small networking, it's the little interactions that you have in collisions that you have at some of these local networking events that you never realize will become a client and potentially your best client that you've ever had over time. It's so interesting to me, if I look back at my 25 years in business, and so much of what I have is from that networking piece. So I mean, of the three companies, I probably wouldn't have two of them if it wasn't for big networking that I was doing when I was young and having no idea that that would pay off later and we wouldn't have the number of the clients we have if it wasn't for going to and still going to the networking events locally and supporting the local networks and being a part of those teams.
How do you stay in front of them best nurture your network?
I think for me as an owner of 3 companies, it's evolved over time. But realizing that honestly, where it started still makes sense. So for me, some of my specifics were, back to the MMAC, which has been phenomenal for us as an organization. My whole thing with networking is, is you get what you give and you don't want to count ships. So, for instance, when I got in there, originally, I had five clients to my name. When I started out, it was getting into just going into the business after hours, getting into a networking group, and I got into a CEO Roundtable, and I got into all three things, and those three things I just kept going right even a year in. It's not that the results come quickly, it's a year or two in and people get to know you and trust you, and someone works with you and then they spread that you're doing great so it kind of helps your network grow. That was like in the beginning and so then as organizations grow, and some other people on the team pick up some of those pieces of the network and fill those in which we're still involved in those same things that we were involved in 20 years ago, then you find other networks, and it's not always that you're intentionally networking. I might join a tech or a Vistage business group, or other CEO coaching or peer group and inside those peer groups, you start networking. Again, you almost see networking as second nature, you're in a business owner’s peer group to learn from each other. So you're sharing financials, and you're talking about your highs and your lows and challenges you're having, and in the process of doing that, you get to know each other so well, that you're just inherently networking with each other. So you may refer business to each other, you may become a client-vendor relationship, or may even be an acquisition merger type of relationship. Those have all worked for me over time. Our business operates through the traction process, and one of my traction to-dos right now is to rethink my personal networking, because we realized that a lot of what drives us to work with is not just getting clients, but also getting good employees and getting great vendor partners. So I mean, I'm in the process right now of reworking that for myself and figuring out where it makes sense to spend my time.
I would tell myself to move faster, be less concerned and less worried, and just take bigger leaps in general. I started the IT business in college and so aside from a job at Subway and a great job that I loved in college, I never actually had a real business job. The IT company was my first real job and so I never really worked at another company to learn from. So in the beginning, I moved a lot slower just because I was nervous that I was going to screw it up and have to start over. Looking back now I wish I would have just moved a whole lot faster. So that and I also get too deep in the weeds. I'm a tech by nature and I love networking with people. So I love people, and I love technology and I'm often getting too deep end account management on some projects, and I'm getting too deep into the engineering of certain things. I love both of those things, but sometimes when I get too far down the path, I realize that I shouldn't have gotten down there and my team, thankfully, is smarter than me and I should have let them handle it. So there's a bunch of stepping aside and moving quicker.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
A person that I really love in business is Richard Branson. I just see all the different companies he's grown to large sizes. He's got a collection of companies, most of them are well known by us and a lot of them even operate outside of this country. I follow him a lot on social media he's also using a lot of the wealth that he's gained from running these companies, which he has tons of fun with. The marketing is totally funny, a lot of guerilla marketing that he's doing, whether it's airlines, or liquor, or music, or what have you and he uses a lot of the wealth for good. Whether it's environmental good or social good, he's just a great person and I would love to somehow network with him and learn more from him than just standing from afar.
Any final words of advice you'd like to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think just to reiterate that it's all about giving as much as you can. If you're going to get involved in a networking group, or like a chamber of commerce organization or anything like that, for networking, I think the big piece is not to worry about receiving right away. That will come later, it might even come much later, but it could come big so just focus on giving and being involved. You'll look back over time and realize that it paid off, and I don't think that's ever failed me.
Connect with Dave
When experts are ready to create more conversations with perfect prospects, they call Tobin at bookofexperts.com. He's been called an introverted savant with a superpower for helping you find your tribe and sparking conversations out of thin air. This new book is called Experts Never Chase, because deep down we all know that chasing undermines the hard-won trust and authority of subject matter experts so he helps entrepreneurs find the easy path dialog that drives sales.
Why did you write the book, Experts Never Chase? What's the big idea behind it?
So our book just came out last month. We launched on May the fourth, and since we launched, we've had a successful Kickstarter, which was a unique experience to launch the book with that and I think we're on four or five bestseller lists now. So that's been a new experience for me, I've never done the book thing. My co-author on the book, Cat Stancik has published once before so she had a little bit more experience and it has been great getting some help from friends and experts in that space of what it looks like to launch and market your book. The funny thing is when we did the Kickstarter, we used the exact same process that is outlined in the book. So I think that that was a really fun way to validate that and show people what we're doing at the same time for why they might be interested in the book. The book is not for everyone, but it's really written for expert-based entrepreneurs, so coaches, consultants, people who talk about clients instead of customers, and particularly folks that are feeling like it's harder than it should be. Like, it's really hard to get that next couple of clients and if I had just a couple more clients coming into the mix, it would really change my business, my life, my work-life balance. So the book is how to make that happen without feeling like you have to chase those clients, those prospective clients around because when you do that, it really undoes a lot of the good work that we seek to make in the world.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that you see in our online space of expert-based entrepreneurs and what would really help them out?
The challenge that I'm seeing goes right back to what you described of this reaction of, "I get these messages, and I have no interest in them," so it's this challenge to scale. We've been sold a bill of goods of I'm going to create a business that's like an ATM, it's going to work while I sleep so everything I do in my business has to be built to scale, built to grow big. Relationships are a little bit different because the minute we start treating other individuals like a number on our spreadsheet. We've all done that funnel math where we try talking to 1,000 contacts where that ends in let's say three clients coming out at the bottom of that funnel. What we don't factor into that math is the 997 people at the start, who received that first message and said, "This is probably someone I'll never do business with," because of that first impression. So I think the challenge is how to change that and how to create relationships in a systematic, predictable and consistent way, but not scalable so that you lose that human-to-human connection. Business is done by one person doing business with another. There are other industries, where their consumers and customers and I came out of that world. That was my background, I had to reinvent myself four or five years ago. I was a build your list, push the send button. We sent two emails that produced a million and a half dollars in the nonprofit space. That was my world, like the one to many kinds of digital marketing. But I grew really frustrated because I saw that it wasn't working as consistently as it should because 2 out of 10 people were opening emails, and you'd work really hard to send better emails, and it might go up to 3 out of 10 people. So about four or five years ago went all-in on this one-to-one, talk to people the way I would want to be approached and converse with, build real relationships, and trust that good things are gonna flow from that. Then I had to get more systematic about it myself.
How are you getting those results?
There are three big questions that come up when we do this process and the book was written from the workshops that I do. When I first approached my co-author about doing the book together, she said, "You realize I'm kind of a competitor, right?" But I think that the book is better for having both our voices in it. We didn't hold anything back from the book and we tackle three big questions that come up. The first is how do I find my right fit prospects? Usually, when people they asked this question, it feels like such a big hurdle, such a big boulder that's been dropped in front of them that they can't even imagine how to get started. Because they're looking around and they don't see where their next client could be coming from. So we show them a few strategies in the book, walk them through. The response we get from folks, after they answer this question, they'll get on the other side, and they'll look back over their shoulder and they're like, "That wasn't really the problem, my real problem is I have a handful of people that I would love to do business with, but I don't know how to start this because every time I reach out to people, I feel weird about it, and they run the other way. How do I start a conversation with someone I really want to do business with?" So the same thing happens, we walk through a couple of strategies that have worked really well. It's not a script. Just note that if you guys are hearing this if someone's trying to sell you on a script that's going to make you a million dollars. Scripts don't work because, by the time someone receives that message, you can feel it. We all know when we're getting marketing from someone else, and no one responds well, but if you can send a message and the person on the other end, the receiving end, 100% knows that that message was meant for them alone, that's one of the ways you can make a positive first impression on people. You can personalize, not just first name, but for example, Lori, with you, we started the podcast this way. I said social currency is a brilliant way to have this conversation to talk about what you're doing because it captures so much. There's a whole economy around giving and receiving of attention right now. So that would be how I would reach out to you to make sure that this is a conversation about you and something you care about and not just a copy and paste that everybody else got. The third thing that always comes up and it's always in this order, how do I find my people, what do I say to them to spark a conversation? The third question is how do we take that conversation and turn it into a sales conversation? My co-author says, "How do you go from talking about the weather to talking about whether we should be doing business together or not?" There an art having a really good conversation with someone and to figure out that there may be business here and to do it in an elegant way that everyone feels great about they feel invited into it. It's really about getting permission, getting people the opportunity to raise their hand and say, "Yeah, tell me a little bit more about that." So the book walks through a bunch of examples that have worked really well for me and for the clients that we've worked with in workshops. It's not one phrase that wins at all, it's more the content of when you deliver this, and that you let them feel like they have control of the conversation, that then you get permission which allows you to enter into the specifics of what it might look like if you do business together.
Can you share one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences?
So I have been that guy too where networking is intimidating. The idea of going to the Chamber of Commerce meeting and having to network that way, is really hard for me, honestly. As a business owner, I've forced myself to do that, but it does make me tense up a little bit even thinking about being in that environment. Let me share with you what has really helped me and I think I've cultivated and nurtured this in the online environment, but I'm now finding it works every bit as well in real life. I can have conversations with people, I can genuinely look for the awesome in that. So what is cool about this other person, what are they doing? It doesn't have to be that we went to the same high school or college since everyone's trying to find that rapport. It's really just as a human being, what are they doing that is really cool that I can find to compliment them? That's one of the first things that I'm going to do. The reason I start there is it feels really good to be validated by others and to be recognized and seen for the hard work that we're doing. So if we can start a conversation there, I found it kind of takes off much more easily for both sides, we just all feel good about it. The second thing is I can put my agenda on the back burner for a while. For me, that means hearing what's going on in the other person's world. I might ask them a question like, "So if I did run into someone who was a perfect prospect for you, how would I recognize them?" A question like that creates an opportunity to have a little bit of a deeper conversation and maybe I actually can make a connection. If there's business to be had that can wait a little bit too because we do business with people that we know, like, and trust and there's reciprocity and all that in place. But if I can really understand who the other person is on the other side of the dialog, I potentially could help them. That's agenda number one for me, I'm probably going to make an introduction to someone else in my network that I know will appreciate them, maybe needs what they have, maybe I'll hear them say that they're stuck with something that they don't fully know or understand yet, but there's someone I know that could be really helpful for them. So connecting those dots between people can become the reason for having that conversation. Then, only then if someone says something that you can help with at that point, it gives you an opportunity to say, "Oh, that's kind of interesting, tell me more about that," and if I don't earn that, then I don't deserve to have that conversation.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network?
I think this is one of the big challenges in this space, which is as you're starting to network with more people, how do you do it in an intelligent way so that they are real relationships and it's not you touched a person one time and you never see them again? That really doesn't serve either side. So one of the tools that I found helpful is a CRM called getdex.com. This has become my favorite tool and the one piece of software that I would most hate to give up. Dex is a Rolodex essentially and it will not replace your CRM. So if anyone out there is saying, "Yeah, I got this covered, I've got HubSpot," that won't work because that's not what dex is. Dex does one thing and it does it really well. It tells you who to connect with or who to talk to and when like the follow-up part of it. So as you and I chat, I'll make a few notes in the record of the timeline of our conversation. Then all my folks that I want to stay in touch with are on-timers, they're in buckets. So for this group of people, I want to make sure that I check-in and see what's going on in their world, look at their content, make sure I'm commenting and staying relevant and up to date with them, at least on a monthly basis. For other people, it might be a couple of times a year where I don't want to lose touch, but it's not a business relationship that I need to stay top of mind with either. So I'm just using this tool and before using dex, I really struggled because I was doing this on paper and it just wasn't working. But this tool plugs into LinkedIn plugs into email, and Facebook so I can make my notes right there, as I'm conversing with people. So it's been a great addition.
What advice would you offer business professionals who are looking to grow their network?
I think I'm going to go back and reuse one that I've already shared, but I'm going to emphasize it because I think it's that important. That is to find the awesome in other people first. As entrepreneurs, we are very sensitive to taking care of our people. So if you have a newsletter, if you have a YouTube channel, your network on LinkedIn, wherever your people are where you're actively growing your audience and nurturing those relationships when someone shows up and engages with you, we are very in tune with taking care of those people, it's a great way to get to know folks. So when you show up and you find the awesome in someone else, it's a natural interface to really connect with them. So for example, for a podcaster like you, Lori, the ratings and reviews on podcasts, that is the currency of podcasting, right. So if someone wants to connect with you, the smartest thing they could do is to leave you a five-star review. Then what I would do is I'd take a screenshot and I'd shoot you an email and say, "Lori, I'm really enjoying the podcast, I just left your review, this is what I said." Now you and I are going to have a completely different conversation because of the context of how we first connected so this is the approach that I prefer. The alternative, what we've been all been told for years is to show up and bring value, like give value to people. There's a problem with this and I did this years ago. There was a lawyer who had paid big money to have the back of the Yellow Page book, and I looked at his website and his local listings online. I could see he had a lot of holes in his online marketing, even though he was spending a lot of money on the yellow pages. So I reached out to him thinking that I was doing him a favor, sharing all these mistakes that he made. I thought I was giving him value, he probably thought I was the biggest ass in the world. So I learned by that mistake that even though I thought I was giving value, that's a terrible way to deliver it. So show up, find the awesome first, and delivering value can come later. There's still a lot of substance in that, but it's not the best way to show up on someone's doorstep.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less than or differently with regards to your professional career?
I think my answer on what I'm doing today is different from what I would say if I could go back and talk to my 20-year-old self. If I could go back and talk to my 20-year-old self, I really would have focused on the list building. I just turned 50 so we're talking about a 30 year period of time where the ability to build an audience of people that had a core interest in common and what I didn't understand back then was if you build a big enough group of people, you can monetize it in really interesting ways. I'm a little bit of a Star Wars nerd so when I was 20 years old if someone said you can create a newsletter that is all about the nerdy Star Wars stuff that you're interested in, I think I wouldn't have believed that. I would have questioned how that would become a business. If you look at our world today, it's amazing how all these passionate communities have been built around a topic or a niche that people really care about a lot and once you've gathered the crowd, you can have sponsors, you can directly sell things that that group asked for. There are so many different ways to monetize it in a way that people will love you for and I would have loved to counsel my younger self on that.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Nope, I just really appreciate what you're doing to get the information out. I think anyone that hears this and if you're interested in connecting, let's have a real conversation.
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Joel is the proud author of Formans Financial Facts, a financial management blueprint. His mission is to educate people so that they can manage their personal finances with confidence for life. Over the past 30 years, Joel has worked in corporate America and a variety of financial roles. He started in traditional financial roles in the financial services and baking industries. About 16 years ago, he successfully moved into the consulting world.
Why is it so important to have a personal budget?
Well, a personal budget to me, is really the foundation for anyone's financial management and money management needs. By building a personal budget, you're going to understand where you're spending your money, what you're spending it on, and you're going to make sure that you're bringing home enough money on a monthly basis to not only cover those fixed and variable expenses but to also have money left over to what I like to call pay yourself for savings and investment opportunities. If you don't have a good handle on the budget, and what you have coming in versus coming out, it's going to be really difficult to do those other two.
Why is it important to have a plan for saving money for the things you want and need?
It's really quite simple. Unfortunately, we know money makes the world go round, we can't go in and purchase a new computer with a smile. So what one of the things that I teach in my blueprint is I break it down into percentages for you. 55% is generally for your core bills, your rent, your mortgage, car payments, any loans you have, etc. Then I have 21%, which is a little bit more flexible for wants and needs, for going out to dinner, for entertainment, going to the movies, once the pandemic is behind us. Then the most critical piece of that is the 24%, which is what I call the pay yourself first, which is you break that down to savings and investments. The savings part of that is let's say you want a new couch, or you're looking to get a new car and you want to have a down payment on it. By saving for that in advance and putting money aside, let's say you need a, you know, a $5,000 downpayment? Well, if you all of a sudden just have to come up with $5,000 from somewhere in your financial arsenal, and you didn't plan for it, it might be more difficult. But by putting this money aside incrementally, it makes the buying experience so much easier when you go to buy that car because that $5,000 while you'll feel it, it's less painful because you already have it and you can enjoy the rest of the buying experience.
What are some of the key things to think about when you're setting these financial goals?
There are a lot of different things that come into play. So I like to look at the whole picture. So you're going to be wanting to save up for things that you want, whether it's a down payment on a car, down payment on a house, you're also going to be thinking about retirement, and yes, no matter how young you are, and especially the younger, the better, because time is not always your friend in life. But when it comes to planning for retirement, time is absolutely your friend, the more time you have for that money to grow, the interest to compound, the market values of whatever you invested in to go up, you want to think about that. You also want to think about your children's future, even if you don't have any, and start planning with a 529 plan or something that will get ready that can be used for their future education. So the first thing you would do is make a laundry list of some of the things that I've mentioned, and maybe some other things that you want to do. Then the next thing is you sit down either with a financial adviser, or an accountant and lay out the things I want and the things that I need to save for my life and for my family. How do I get there? What's the plan? What are the steps? What are the vehicles that I'm going to go through, to channel the money to either save and or invest to get to each of those milestones down the road? That's why you have to plan it out because the house and the car are going to come before the kids and then the kids are going to come and then you're going to have college and then the retirement is always there, but it's kind of in the background. You really have to think about it though because like I said, the more time you have the better off you're going to be.
First of all, I'm an avid fan of networking, always have been always will be. I'm a big fan of it's not what you know, but who you know, and who they know. That is a good segue into how I got onto this podcast with you, Lori. A mutual contact of ours I recently connected with, her name is Grace Chang and I mentioned to her among other things, that one of my goals was to get on a few podcasts like this, and she says, "Oh, I think I can help you, I know two people that have really successful podcast!" So I didn't realize when I first talked to Grace that was going to come up in conversation, let alone lead to this. You just never know when you're talking to someone, and you're sharing your goals and she's sharing her goals and I've introduced her to people where it's gonna lead. So for me, that's very recent, hot off the presses and I'd have to say, even though I have a lot of other great successful stories, I think that's probably the best.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationship that you've created in your network in your community?
For me, there's a couple of things. But for those of you that know who I am, and follow me on LinkedIn, or Facebook or Instagram, one of the things that I instituted at the first week in January, and then the second week of January, I do a financial word of the day, which I've been doing since January 2. Then since January 9, I do videos each day and they're all related to financial tips. Basically, my financial blueprint covers eight financial topics so it's always within the realm of one of those. I know some people prefer to read things, and some people prefer the videos so that's why I'm doing the mix of both. It also gives me a chance to hit two promos on the same day without doing the promo because I'm not always telling you to go to my site and buy this or look at what I have. A lot of times, I don't even mention that. I usually say that or I might have it in the intro written for teeing up the video. But basically, by constantly videoing, I've been told that that makes it more personable, people get to know me a little bit more and feel like we're having a conversation and I'm very comfortable with that. I never thought I'd be doing all these videos, but I'm getting close to my 100th and I just did my 100th word of the day. But the other thing that I do is I'm constantly reaching out to my network and just seeing how they're doing. If there's anything new or if I see that they've accomplished something, and they promoted it somewhere, I'll comment in and I'll try to share that and spread that good fortune for them along the way. So that's kind of the main ways that I do it, showing up and being consistent.
What advice would you offer to business professionals really looking to grow their network?
I would say you have to be active. You have to be active now on as many social media platforms as you can because you're going to reach different people on these different platforms. I mean, one of the things that I'd say about LinkedIn is that I've always used LinkedIn successfully for consulting opportunities, but now I've shifted it as now I'm a financial educator. So I'm using LinkedIn now more this year in 2021 than I have since 2008 when I joined. Another great way is Clubhouse, a new audio platform, and it was originally only for iPhone users at first, now the Android users are on there, so now everybody's on there, which is fantastic. It's a great way to go into rooms, usually, they tell you what it's about and who the guests are going to be and you can get to know people and feel a connection with people so quickly in a short conversation. That would happen organically with emails or messages back and forth, but I've met some great people where we've taken immediate action on doing things because we just connected. Also, any networking opportunity where you can be in person, or where you can actually talk to someone, the zoom calls, a lot of the virtual things, it's so much easier to build rapport when you're having a conversation, and you can cover so much ground so quickly. So I would say put yourself out there. LinkedIn is hugely important, but don't shy away from Clubhouse and other things where you can get more quick hits, and maybe meet more people in a short period of time.
I haven't thought about it often, but occasionally I do and one of the things that I would say is when I was young, and I went through my junior year of college, I really wasn't too happy with it. I wasn't a great student, I was struggling a little bit and I had this burning desire to have my own business. So I dropped out after my junior year, much to everyone's dismay and I tried to pursue my own business for four years. I learned so much, but I would say looking back on it after the first two opportunities didn't work out. After three years, instead of just trying to pursue the dream then, I would have had the wisdom to go on a different plan for now. I ultimately did do that, just a year late. I went back to 49 credits of hell, but in 12 months I got my degree and I have to say it was the best decision I ever made, I was so proud of myself, I did better that year than I did any other. But I would say that over the years since then, there are a few times when I've wanted to do something more entrepreneurial, and I would have done it a little bit sooner. But sometimes you get on a different path for a different reason and last year, the pandemic gave me yet another pause in my career, and my youngest son said, "Dad, you're helping me with my budget, you're helping me with savings, you're helping me with investing, you're helping my siblings, you're helping my friends, you're helping my girlfriend negotiate better rates on loans, Dad, you have all this knowledge, you've been doing this for free, for all these years, helping everyone and everybody's still coming to you, but people my age need this, I'd be lost without you. Some of my friends that don't have access to you are clueless when it comes to money." So sometimes you just go through life, and you get to a point and something gives you time to pause and you're always trying to pass on wisdom to your kids. This was one time one of my sons passed on wisdom to me. Ever since I decided to do this blueprint, I've been happier than I've ever been and the timing of it was great because I actually had the time to delve into it. So I would say be open-minded to when events or pauses happen in your life, and you get a chance to rethink what you're doing, and how you're doing it, and how else you can use your skills to help others.
You've actually got a giveaway for our listeners today. Do you want to talk about that briefly?
As I mentioned earlier, and as you alluded to earlier about my financial blueprint. I cover 8 of what I consider basic concepts or foundational areas, or principles that you really need to master in order to manage your personal finances with confidence. So I created a pamphlet, and I called it 8 Principles of Financial Freedom by Formans Financial Facts. So each page will give you an example of how a personal budget will be important, that's one page. Then there's a basic savings method, which is the second section of my blueprint. From there, you go to basic investment methods, then retirement planning, building your credit and that is really helpful for those people that want to understand more about how their credit score works, and how it helps them, primary loan types, life insurance, and planning for college. So I know there's a lot of other things, but I did a lot of research and I gave this a lot of thought and I think if you can get a good foundational footing on each of these areas which my blueprint walks you through that and reinforces concepts and philosophies and habits, you'll really get a good sense of this. This giveaway is a little snapshot of what the broader blueprint will cover.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would say none of us are on an island by ourselves, and all of us have enjoyed different levels of success and continue to enjoy that. But one of the ways that I found has really helped me to grow, is I try to help as many other people as I can along the way. Also, the people that are helping me like I have a social media team and a brand management team, I like to consistently let them know that I appreciate all their efforts because I couldn't do it by myself. I really do, I am grateful that I've had people believe in me and what I'm doing and have gotten to know me and then I introduce people and then they collaborate or create something great and it's just very rewarding. So I would say always think about how you can serve others and always remember that you're not doing alone, you don't have to be and that's okay. There are a lot of good people out there, a lot of smart people that can give you a lot of great wisdom, and you just never know when that next contact of yours is going to lead to something big for them, or for you.
Connect with Joel
Eric is the co-founder of Blue C, a California-based brand strategy and creative marketing agency. Since 1998 Eric has been helping companies across both b2b and b2c segments. Eric is a second-generation marketer and actively supports clients’ growth dreams through the Blue C Brand PWR platform and the Six Systems To Success. On a personal basis, Eric spends 16 weekends a year in Baja California and is the co-founder of The California Love Job, which cares for frontline workers.
How important is brand strategy for companies that want to grow?
Well, what's interesting is that our company focuses first and foremost on brand strategy. The platform we have is called Brand Power and the very first step is always about brand strategy, brand messaging, clarity and positioning. It's interesting, because in the last 12 to 18 months, we have had so many more companies come to us and ask us to go through our Brand Power clarity process than ever before. A lot of people think that branding and marketing flow together, but they're almost like polar opposites, or maybe even like the Ying Yang, if you don't do one, you can't do the other. What happens is if you don't have complete clarity on your message, you're not going to be able to do your marketing well. So by going through our process, we're able to uncover everything, create absolute clarity, create massive success for both internal and external, as well as create the next step in our Brand Power process, which is called amplify. The system actually works really well as a roadmap and our first step is clarify, which is the brand strategy, amplify, which is the marketing strategy marketing plan, kind of our roadmap, and then infuse the creative campaign development. Then integrate is the digital marketing and sales strategies, and then engage is all the social media content and content marketing that flows in around the whole campaign. So to answer your question more precisely, how important is brand strategy, is brand strategy is a long game, but it's very, very, very important. You can't do one without the other.
What is the difference between branding and marketing?
I think the easiest way to explain branding is this is what people think about you after you leave your room. The marketing is how are we going to get that message out to the right people at the right place at the right time. So if you break it down really simple like that, that's the best way to think about it. The branding is always about the message. A lot of people are like, "Okay, well, we need our brand developed, let's do our logo," but no, it actually goes deeper into that. So when we go through our process, the brand clarity process, we really get down into the pillars, the tonality, the mission, the values, the words you say, the words you don't say, the visual direction, and keeping a very strong clarity in the message. So with that being said, the branding is that feeling, what they think about you, how everything is cohesive and everything works together, the marketing is how they're going to connect with you to get you to engage and be a fan of that brand.
What's the difference between b2b marketing and b2c marketing?
I think the easiest way to think about it, and I kind of want to take a step back before I go into that is a consumer will spend $100 on something, but a business will spend $1,000 on that same thing. The difference is that the consumer wants to know about the emotional connection of it, they want the emotional buy on it. So you're going to see a lot of marketing really targeted towards the emotional side, how you're going to feel, how you're going to be seen, how you're going to look, how this thing is going to change your life on it. Then on b2b, it's all rational and they're thinking what is it going to do for my company, is it going to save me time or make me more money. What's really interesting is that we have clients that have both b2b products, and the same product is been for b2c. It's really difficult sometimes because you have to change your thinking, and you really have to change how you're communicating when you're going to the consumer market and then all of a sudden, it's like, "Now what we have to do is we have to this campaign for the exact same product for the b2b channels." Knowing your audience, and really knowing what's important for them, and knowing their profile is the first step that we found. And if anyone wants to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn, I will send you our customer profile template, you can just fill it out, and you can have it it's a three-page document that's basically a lifesaver.
Well, first and foremost, do you remember years ago when networking was sleazy, you're going out there, and you're going to have a chicken lunch and hang out with a bunch of people and it was just like sleazy. It was really interesting because when I really started to understand networking, I felt the complete opposite and I love it. I'm an introvert by nature, but the idea is that being around people, and getting to learn their side of things and their conversations, and you never know where they're going to intersect in your life is most important. So I take the other side to it, networking is the greatest time ever. For those that don't get outside of their comfort zone, they're going to limit their growth potential, their financial opportunities, as well as just their lifelong depth of getting to know new and exciting things. I've networked through the whole pandemic and what's really crazy about the whole thing is I didn't know as networking, I thought it was just doing something to help out. So one of our clients is Wahoos Fish Tacos. They have 60 locations and they're an iconic restaurant in California, and they lost 85% of their business in two days. So let's kind of put this in perspective. For every dollar bill that was handed at the counter, 85% of that was cut in half and thrown in the trash. If you have 60 locations, 85% of that is a terrible thing, you can lose the whole business, as well as every other restaurant losing 85% of their business. But the other thing is that the food kept on coming in from their suppliers. So all their food is provided by suppliers on an ongoing basis on a monthly or yearly contract. So you can't stop the train it's going to come there if you have customers or not, you committed it to it so it's yours. So myself and Wing Lam who is the owner of Wahoos called me up one night. He's very philanthropic and he said, "Hey, I need some help, can you help me deliver some tacos?" I was like, "Okay," so basically, I got my car, and we made 300 tacos because he only had two people at one location, we delivered it to a hospital for the doctors and nurses there. The whole objective is to keep the doctors and nurses fed and keep them staying very positive, not calling in sick, because if you call in sick, then they have to do a freelance doctor or freelance nurse, which is called the traveling nurse. When you get that many people, it gets financially out of hand and then the hospital has to make a decision of having a short staff versus the actual size of the staff. So we did that and then we got a couple of calls from other people who said, "Hey, we can't do events right now do you want to partner up?" So Monster Energy called us and said, "Hey, we've got all this product that for sampling, but we don't have any events now so what are we going to do?" We got Monster Energy on board, a bunch of other major companies came on board and then one of the largest radio stations in Los Angeles came on board and they said, "We want to be a partner on this." So we created this thing called the California Love Drop. Corporate companies started said, "Hey, we really love what you're doing, let us pay for the food, and you just delivered to the hospitals and give us some credit for it." So we're approaching about 300 different drops now, probably about 25,000 meals. The greatest thing is, is that this was like networking in a box, where all these companies started wanting to come out and hang out with us, and on Friday morning on the largest radio station we have five minutes on every hour to talk about what we're doing. So the companies loved to be mentioned on it. So it was kind of like organic networking. So that is actually my favorite story and if anyone's interested in learning more then go to https://californialovedrop.org/ to check it out.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture all these relationships that you're creating?
First and foremost, as soon as I meet with someone, I think about how I can help. I grew up in the restaurant business so I kind of has this mentality of wanting to help people. Each and every aspect is that I don't come from the perspective of well, first and foremost, I'm not a salesperson. I'm always here to help people get what they need, but on the other side, I always want to help them first. So I always connect with them on LinkedIn and say, "Hey, if there's anything I can do, just let me know!" But the other aspect is that I always try to keep them connected to the fun things we're doing. Last week, Blue C does a big thing every year called the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. It's a motorcycle ride for men's prostate cancer and men's mental health, where it's 900 rides worldwide on the same day with 60,000 people. So I run the Orange County one and we actually sold out the first time in 10 years which was great. It's really cool because all the men and women get dressed up and their Sunday best, the suits the whole thing, we go we do a coastal ride up the coast so everyone gets to see the beach and comes back down. Then we have the triumph, we have Wahoos fish tacos and at the final stage, we had barber stations there. So as soon as the guys and girls got off, the motorcycles and took their helmets off, they actually got their hair done. The festivities were only supposed to last till four o'clock and actually lasted till six, we had a great time. But I also invite my clients to go and then all of a sudden, my clients want to be involved in it, too. So we actually integrate them into it. So I think of it as like the party that keeps on going.
What advice would you offer that business professional is really looking to grow their network?
Consistency. You can go and do 10 different networking things and you're going to burn yourself out. You're going to sit in the middle of the night, and you're going, "I went to 10 different things and I didn't get one piece, one project, one relationship, nothing." Instead of doing 10 different things, focus on three that you're really passionate about, that are like-minded, that you have a passion yourself for, and focus on that and be consistent. Don't just go once, and that's it, don't go twice and that's it, continue to go. The other thing I always encourage is don't be the person at the bar. Dedicate your time and work at the front desk. The best part is at the front desk, you meet everyone and they will remember you. If you're the person behind the bar, or the person at the bar holding the bar up is you've probably met three people and that person is probably a life insurance salesperson, a mortgage broker, and a dog groomer. On the other hand, if you have 100 people that came through, you're going to know every single person afterward, you can actually go up to that person and say "Hey, I would love to learn a little more about your industry." So I always say it's about consistency, showing up, and being active.
I wish I would have started networking in my 20s. But I also wish I had built more strong relationships between my 20s and 30s. I was a working guy back then, and the thing about it is that if you work for a company right now if you're in your 20s and 30s, is those are your growing years. Those aren't your earning years, those are growing years, you're just figuring stuff out. The thing about it is that from that you get mentors, and mentors are great people that you connect with that are ongoing, and you have to have those between 20 and 30. Otherwise, the 30 to 40 years are your earning years where when you're actually earning money. Then, 40 to 50 is when you actually are earning more money, but also between 40 and 50 are your giving back years, you have to pay it forward. So the circle of life starts is the 20 to 30 but ends at 40 to 50+ on a giving back. So I didn't realize that and one of the things that really made me realize this is I met this guy when I was in my 30s. I was invited to it was actually the foundation room in Las Vegas and it was for the SEMA Show. This guy was this Las Vegas guy and he goes by the name of The Godfather of Las Vegas, just a real strong enigma of a person. He was so connected in Las Vegas on the business side, everything connected with him in one way or another. Everyone that was moving around in Las Vegas from a job standpoint was connected to him. So I looked at him and said, "Wow, you know everyone," and he goes, "Yeah," and he actually was the one that introduced me to LinkedIn many years ago. I think he was my LinkedIn contact number one. So going back is that's one of those things that changed me because in the early era of Blue C we got business and clients would come to us, but those clients eventually go away. Once a client, not always a client, so you always have to refill the system and help more and more people and the only way to do it is to meet new people. What I would say is even if you're an introvert make sure you work at that guest table, make sure you go up to the people that are putting the event together, and ask how you can help. They'll give you something to do and you will also become better.
Connect with Eric
Katie is a writer specializing in customer case studies. She has written for technology and education companies and coaches of all types. In her free time, Katie enjoys baking, reading fantasy novels, and going on road trips with her husband. Katie lives in Wisconsin and thinks cheese should be in its own food group.
Can you share with our listeners what a customer case study is?
A customer case study is the success story of how a client or customer has gotten results through a product or service. So basically it takes your happy customer from how they found you, why they decided to work with you, through that experience of working with you, and down to the results that they got when they had finished working with you.
What are some characteristics of an ideal customer to feature in a case study?
So customers that make a great fit have likely told you that they are happy with the work that you both did together. They may have recommended you to others, which is great because a customer case study is kind of a recommendation, so to speak so if they've already been recommending you to other people, they'll be able to give more ideal quotes for the case study. Also, if your customer has told you about a result that was particularly impactful, that is also a great qualifier for a customer who might make a great case study, because having a great story and pairing that with enticing data, or even really great emotional benefit, is definitely a way to create a piece that shows your prospects and your leads what they will get if they work with you.
So you have mentioned that there are four sections to a case study. What are examples of the questions that I could ask my customers to make sure that I have information in each of those four parts?
So the first part is the introduction. You'll want to ask your customer if they are a business owner, where is their business located, what types of work do they do with their clients and customers, how long have they been in business, and then if they're a consumer, then you'll ask them things like, where do they live, how old they are if they're comfortable sharing that. Sometimes people's hobbies and interests can be good to know about just to make it a little more personable. So those are the basic introduction questions. Then we get into the challenge part and the challenge part talks about what challenges they were looking to solve. So I usually ask, what was the challenge you were looking to solve, why did you choose to have someone else help you solve your problem, how are you solving your problem before you found the product or service that ended up being the solution, and then we get into your business because we want to have a little information about you and your business and why they chose you. That can come from asking them, how did you learn about the solutions, why did you specifically choose to work with my company, if you're doing the interview yourself. Then, of course, the most impactful section is the results. So a few questions that I usually ask are, what are some qualitative results that you've experienced? So that gets really into those emotions, those feelings. What are some quantitative results that you've experienced as a result of the work? Which gets into the numbers? Then another question I love is, tell me about a time when the work we did made a real difference because that can open up a whole story of, "Oh, I was just spending all my time answering emails, but with the autoresponder that your company provides, I now have a ton of time to do the work that I love, and I'm really happy." So that question can be really open-ended and give the readers an idea of how the results can impact them on a day-to-day basis. Then I always ask, why would you recommend this business to others? That is a great question, because sometimes they'll even say, "Well, yeah it has, I have sent referrals, or I have recommended this business to other people and here's why." It kind of, it kind of touches on the warmth that a person can experience in your customer service, or in the way that you solve problems, or just in your approach in general, that doesn't always get captured in the results. So those are the four sections and those are some questions that can help you make sure that you're covering your bases when you're creating your case studies.
I think one of my favorites might have been when I attended a networking event online in 2020. It was just a really fun and really interactive networking event. They asked questions like if your business were an emoji, put the emoji that you would represent your business into the chat and that was just super fun because it really highlighted each of our businesses in a really unique way. It also brought up some important aspects of our branding and messaging that doesn’t always come out in your own logo or in your own storytelling. Mine was a megaphone emoji, by the way, because I see my business as a business that champions and cheers on the success of other businesses. So it was just fun to connect with people from that networking event afterward and have one-on-ones with them and have that insight into just the fun, creative businesses that they are.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network and your community?
I love LinkedIn. It is the place where a lot of my ideal customers are hanging out and it's just a little more focused than some of the other social platforms. So I post on LinkedIn weekly and I'm also a big proponent of sending messages to people. So asking them to connect, asking them to hop on a quick call so we can get to know each other, and then even if I have conversations with people that really stand out, and I really want to reconnect with them later, there are a couple of people that I've connected with almost monthly just to shoot the breeze and talk shop, especially other writers, and other people in marketing. I think it's really fun to share ideas and just talk with each other about how business and life are going. It's great to build relationships and really get to know people as people.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
I would say connect. There are people in the world who are connectors. They usually will tell you that they are a connector and if you are fortunate to have a connector in your network, definitely leverage that relationship. Also set goals for what you can accomplish and by that, I mean plan to reach out to a certain number of people per day, and plan to send a certain number of connection requests each week. Just make it a part of your everyday business routine and business practices and that will help your network grow. Also, I've had success joining groups of people who are either in my target audience or who are in my field, parts of marketing groups, and writing groups, and people will connect to you in a group as well. That's great because if you're looking at the members of a group, you can send messages to them even if you're not connected on a first-level connection basis, and it doesn't count against your searches if you're connecting with people from groups which is helpful.
I would tell myself not to be afraid to freelance and do writing jobs for people. It took me a long time to think of myself as a freelancer and I think part of that had to do with just the way the internet developed and the way that freelancing became a little more well known in the area where I was living at the time as I grew a little older. But yeah, I would tell myself to just not be afraid to reach out to people and network with people. I don't think I understood the value of networking quite as much as I do now so don't be afraid is my main message for my 20-year-old self.
Let's talk about the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you could do it within the sixth degree?
Probably Tim Ferriss, because he's been a huge inspiration to me. I read one of his books, and I had so much energy, I didn't know what to do with it that I like went skydiving with a friend because I just had to get the energy out. And six degrees of separation, I mean, one of my co-workers moved to Austin, Texas. I know Tim either does live or used to live in Austin. So maybe one of my co-worker’s friends knows him. I'm sure somewhere along the line it'll happen because we probably do know people who know people, especially since I've been floating a little more in entrepreneurial spaces these days.
As you're reaching out to people, and as you are connecting with people, you're going to connect with some people that you will just learn about and get to know and that's great. You're going to connect with some people who have something to offer you and they will help you. You're also going to connect with some people who are looking for your help. That could be they're looking to connect with someone that you know, that could also be they're looking for a service that you provide, or they might even be a job seeker who's looking for encouragement, and you can share your story. I have found it to be such a joy to help people when I get the opportunity. So I would encourage you to keep a special watch out for the ways that you can help others as you're growing your network.
Connect with Katie:
Melinda is a sales coach who specializes in helping female entrepreneurs sell to corporations. Not only does she coach how to sell, she still practices her own sales. Melinda works as a sales executive and holds an impressive track record of over $40 million. With 20 plus years of b2b sales experience, she is determined to help other women expand their impact by selling to big companies. She also leads a Facebook community of amazing women trailblazers called B2B Women Making Big Sales.
How do small business owners sell to big clients?
Yeah, I think this is usually the first question people have. When we are small entrepreneurs, and we look at other people going after or working with more established businesses and corporations, and a lot of times they look at fellow entrepreneurs that are able to have an impressive client list. A lot of people often ask me, how can I sell to corporations, and I personally think in today's world, the world has gone through so many changes and companies are actually becoming more flexible in terms of looking for consultants or companies or business owners to work with me. So I've worked with a lot of women that told me the same thing. Sometimes companies are looking for employees, but because of different reasons, they started looking for consultants to help them with different services or different solutions. But the first thing that when people are thinking about starting to go after corporations, the first thing they often have is that, "How do I get started? Is it even possible?" I like to say the first step when it comes to going after corporate clients is all about the target. If you want to stand out and compete with other people, especially more established competitors, the first thing you need to ask yourself is, can I be more specific or targeted in terms of my marketing? Can I find an industry that is highly specialized, and in terms of what I do, can I be considered as a specialist in terms of my service offering. Your positioning statements should be the first thing you stand out for because business prospects or business clients are super busy, they often do not have a lot of time to listen to a long speech or long elevator speech. So to have a very clear understanding of how you stand out how you can be a specialist should really be the first thing that you want to focus on. But if you are able to stand out within a very specialized industry or something you offer, I personally think that there is a great opportunity for you out there to go after corporate clients because you are going to tell them, "Hey, I'm going to stand out from my more established competitors because working with me, you get to have direct access to me, you are able to work with me rather than some other teams or other companies where they have a lot of turnovers." I think that for small entrepreneurs when it comes to going after corporate clients, our customer service and personalized approach is definitely a way to that will appeal to a lot of corporate clients.
How do small business owners stand out when they're selling to these big clients?
Yeah, definitely niching down. I often tell people that in terms of sales perspective, the first thing, industry can be a really great way for you to stand out from your competitors. It's one thing to say, "Hey, I'm a marketing consultant," or you can say, "I'm a marketing consultant that really specializes in sporting industries," and that instantly helps you stand out from your competitors. So to really find an industry that you're passionate about, and one thing you can look at is to look at your past experience. A lot of women when they start out probably already have years of experience, either in the corporate world or from their education, or where they're located. So you can also always look back to your professional experience, and try to ask yourself, in terms of experience I have, what industry can I specialize in, and that is a great way to really stay focused, to stand out. Similar to a lot of marketing conversations people might have with you, it's niching down. But I think by niching down for corporate clients, when you're having a sales conversation, it becomes really easy for you to understand and it also allows you to have a better impact in terms of your sales activities. Think about this, if you want to go after companies in the sports industry, it's one thing to go after one or two prospects in the industry, but if you decide to niche down and focus on this industry, then you can easily go after all the companies within that industry, and continue to have a sales conversation that's very industry-specific, rather than going after a broad range of market. If you have a sales communication style message that is more broad-based, by niching down to a specific industry, then you can go after one industry at a time. Every time you go after one industry, you're more likely to stand out because you're focusing and you're being the specialist of the specific industry. So that's definitely the first thing that you need to think about and a lot of women I support within our Executive Lounge Program, I also ask them to really have a very clear understanding of their competitors. By knowing the bigger competitors, you can also understand how you're going to be different from those competitors and that should be the next step in terms of helping you stand out from the competitors.
How do you manage your sales process as a busy entrepreneur?
That's led to a little bit of that industry-specific sales strategy. The way I help female entrepreneurs sell, the way we design it, it all happens for a reason. First of all, by niching down, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed. By focusing on one industry you are going to start to connect with people that tend to know each other. I've been selling for 20 years, I've sold in different industries around the world, but every time I get into one industry here's what I noticed: I noticed that everybody tends to know each other. So if you are able to niche down and focus on specific industries, a small number of industries, and the more you network with people, you're going to notice that people tend to know each other. A lot of people in the marketing positions within the sports industry, I bet you that most people know each other, and people tend to go from one business to the other. So the more you network, and the more you connect with people, you are going to become the insider of that industry and that is how you stop being overwhelmed. If you try to go after a lot of people, one of the biggest mistakes I hear entrepreneurs face is that they will go after a broad range of industries, and then they end up having hundreds of prospects on their CRM client management systems and they will have hundreds of prospects and not knowing how to follow up, or people will be telling me, "Oh, my God, LinkedIn, I'm getting so many messages, and I'm having trouble managing them," but if you're able to really prioritize and know who you want to go after and make sure that you connect with people that are really going to give you those 5-6 figure sales, that is the first step to avoid feeling overwhelmed, and you've definitely got to have a very clear sales system. I teach a five-step sales system, and we focus on one step at a time. Always asking yourself, where am I in this step within this sales success plan, where am I, and what should I do to just simply move forward? So that's definitely the second one, and once you have that system down, I encourage you to probably outsource part of your sales success plan to somebody else and that is when you can start thriving and start to feel less overwhelmed. But definitely, it's a step-by-step process. It's about niching down because the more you can know, within one specific industry, you are going to be known and people are going to start talking about you and refer your clients. That is the reason why I'm able to do what I do while still being a director of sales for another company. I had to start building my relationship and connect with a lot of people, but now I am known and while I'm known, I'm able to offer time to female entrepreneurs as support to go in after big clients. So it is possible to do that.
I'm just looking at the most recent thing. I am in sporting goods, I represent another company and we go after large sports brand. So one thing that came to mind is that these days I'm going after the boxing industry. I've been attending trade shows for a long time and every year I will be going to trade shows. A lot of times when you go in after trade shows you meet different kinds of people and recently, I was just going after this boxing industry and I remember two years ago somebody briefly introduced me to the top r&d person, within a boxing company a really important brand. That is really something that really resonated with me in terms of networking stories you were talking about is that you really don't know the kind of people you're going to connect with. But two years ago, when I bumped into the person, and we had a common connection, I call it super connectors and the person introduced me to this top r&d person of this boxing brand. This just reminded me that whenever we do networking, we always got to think long-term. Two years ago I met this person, and today this person would be my ideal client and I'm super grateful. If I were to try to reach out to this person on LinkedIn, and try to connect with this person, first of all, this person doesn't even have a LinkedIn profile. It would have taken me so much longer to try to track down this person and let alone getting a meeting or a face-to-face meeting with this person. But just by two years ago, being able to network with people, especially industry insiders, people that are hanging out in the industry within the industries, I was able to get a business card of my ideal client. Two years later I'm super grateful to be able to have his business card, and I've kept it and that would have saved me so much trouble tried to reach out to or figure out what that person is. Again, back to if you have a good right target, and if your target is specific enough, you really are going to notice that the more you network, the more you meet people, everybody knows each other. That also goes to your reputation because you've got to have a great reputation to make sure that people are going to talk about you positively. But that turned out to be a great opportunity for me to meet my ideal clients two years later. You just never know where your business is going to take you out who might end up benefiting, or what networking event might end up being super beneficial.
As you've met people from all over how do you best stay in front of our best nurture these relationships that you're creating?
I think, first of all, you've got to have a very simple to implement client relationship system. It doesn't have to be fancy, a lot of people like to use HubSpot, I like to keep my sales on a client management system. Also making sure that you prioritize those people that are important to your target industry. I talked within my group, I talk to the women I support a lot about the super connectors to really recognize that a small group of people could provide the most impact on your sales. So when you're networking with people, I think the first thing to really keep in mind and avoid feeling overwhelmed is to prioritize the most important connections you want to keep in touch with and have a simple system. Some ladies in my group use something as simple as Excel but have simple systems so that you stay focused when it's time to do your sales s you don't have hundreds of prospects that you need to follow up. Focus on your most important prospects and focus on nurturing relationships with them. I think staying focused is also another very important thing for busy entrepreneurs. Let's face it, we have so many things to do, I support mostly female entrepreneurs and I always tell the ladies, we don't just have to sell, we have to manage our clients, manage our people, some of us are moms, daughters, friends, we have so many things to manage. So keep your system as simple as possible. Don't overcomplicate it and stay focused.
What advice would you offer to the business professional who is really looking to grow their network?
I often talk about the super connectors. Super connectors are specifically designed for people who are going after 5-6 figure decision-makers like businesses and corporations. A lot of times, when you try to reach out to decision-makers, many of them don't hang out on LinkedIn. I think that is a lot of challenges entrepreneurs or professionals face is that they'll be posting a lot on LinkedIn, but their content is only consumed by smaller professionals, but most decision-makers often are not consuming content on LinkedIn, or sometimes they don't even have LinkedIn messages. So reaching out to super connectors, and try to develop opportunities for business referrals is another opportunity or another sales strategy I often share with my fellow entrepreneurs or women I support. But basically, super connectors are the people that would be connected to your decision-makers, but that is also open to networking opportunities. One thing when it comes to superconductors that you want to keep in mind is there are a lot of different people that might be able to give you business referral opportunities, look for those super connectors because these people could potentially get your foot in the door with your business decision-makers, and be conscious and spend time to nurture those relationships. I often joke about this, but sometimes I'm nicer to my super connectors than my actual prospective clients. But these are the people that first of all, have a huge amount of industry knowledge that you probably couldn't get by googling or by talking to other people. So these people, have been in the industry for a long time, and they could probably share a lot of information and knowledge with you. These are the people you're able to create win-win relationships with, these are the people that could refer you clients and give you that business introduction. Oftentimes, a lot of professionals and entrepreneurs, all know that business introduction is the most powerful way to get the attention of decision-makers or corporate clients. So yes, when you're building your network, look for those that are able to introduce you to your ideal clients.
I would say focus on the next best step. So I often talked about how I've got a success plan and these are the five steps to getting more corporate clients. But in terms of day-to-day, I would encourage myself to focus on the next best step and really just focus on making that progress. I am a very impatient person, I'm going to be very frank about it. I'm always trying to do better go after different things over the years, I've gone to different markets. But looking back, I would tell myself don't be so impatient, but just focus on the next best step, what is the next best step I should focus on, and enjoy the process. I am proud to say that even though I've been selling for 20 years, and I've done 1000s of cold calls, and I also like to joke about this, frankly, I probably been rejected more than most people I know. But I have to say, I've really enjoyed this process and I continue to love being an entrepreneur. There have been ups and downs, but if I were to talk to myself, 20 years ago, I'd say enjoy the ride, focus on your next best step and just focus on doing it with more joy and more purpose, and enjoy the ride because I always thought I'd be so happy if I made it or if I closed this deal. Turned out that I did close those deals, but I continued to want to grow and I continued to want to go after the next big plan. So it doesn't stop, this whole process never stops and it's more about the journey. Seriously, your journey is your destination, the more I've been in sales and as an entrepreneur, the more I appreciate what they're saying. So just have fun and enjoy whatever you're doing every single day and stay focused on your next best job and continue to grow and appreciate people we know every single day. I know we've talked so much about sports, and I love the fact that I've got somebody to talk about hockey with so enjoy the people you know and have fun.
What final word of advice you have to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think the most important thing that I would like to share with everybody listening when is when somebody is in front of you, I would say listen, pay close attention and just focus on listening. So many people come to me and say, "Hey, what is the step-by-step script to closing sales?" While I do have lots of sales scripts and sales templates, I always like to remind people when it comes to sales or even any relationship you're trying to build in your business world, it's about the person in front of you. While there are still those templates, those scripts, we will often consume different content about the strategies and a step-by-step process when you are in front of anybody, just listen closely and ask yourself, how do I create a win-win relationship with this person? How can I support the person? How can I help the person? Always be helpful, and being helpful is the best way to build a relationship because a lot of times, we don't know what might happen. As I said, two years ago I had a simple networking opportunity, and boom, two years later, this person now is my ideal client. I would say focus on the person in front of you, always be helpful, and create win-win situations. The more creativity you've got, the better you are at creating win-win relationships, and the more likely you're going to build that powerful network. The essence of a powerful network, or even closing sales is all about having a win-win relationship where the person knows that if he or she works with you, there is going to be a win-win relationship. That, in essence, is the foundation of any successful sales relationship or business relationship. So yeah, I would say just focus on listening to the person and then genuinely create a win-win relationship, and be creative in terms of how can I support this person and if you're able to help this person, then this person is going to be very happy to refer your clients to give you a business or share knowledge with you. So always be helpful. I think Dale Carnegie once said, "If you're able to help that person, the person in front of you, then you can achieve anything." I'm paraphrasing it, but I really believe that for me, I think that's part of the reason why every time I do networking events or when I'm in front of prospective clients, I'm able to have a pretty good closing rate because of that sincere desire to really want to help people and I'm always trying to find ways to support and help people.
Connect with Melinda
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Mike graduated in 2015 from William Paterson University, where he studied New and Digital Marketing Methods. During his senior year, he accepted an internship at an advertising agency that specialized in marketing for manufacturing and logistics companies. This is where he developed his passion for manufacturing that ultimately led him to the New Jersey Manufacturing Extensions Program where he can actively make a difference and support the industry.
Why are you advocating so vigorously for the manufacturing industry?
It kind of goes off of the fact that it's been stigmatized. Manufacturing, when people think about it, they think the dark, dirty, dangerous facilities in the Henry Ford videos of the assembly line where right now it's so beyond that image, where it without talking about advocating for it, students, young adults won't know that the industry average salary in New Jersey is over $94,000 a year. That impact on the nation of high-paying jobs, the impact to the GDP of the nation itself is just too important to forget about or let dwindle. So those factors really are the sole reason why people need to speak up for manufacturing and get that underappreciated opportunity in the forefront, where there's so much opportunity, there's so much value for the workers, the communities, the states, the nation. Without advocating for it, it's just gonna get forgotten because when I was in school, I was told that all manufacturing went overseas. So I didn't look at the industry and I think that was a miss. But glad I made it to where I can actually talk about it and engage with students and engage with the local communities to make sure people know about the opportunities.
How can manufacturers ensure the success of their business and the industry as a whole here in the US?
It goes back to advocacy. Stay engaged with the local community, and really the local government, because, in New Jersey, the legislature thought that all manufacturing moved. They're lawyers, they're business people and professional services, they're not necessarily manufacturers, so they didn't know the industry existed, especially to the extent it does, where New Jersey has over 11,000 manufacturing and stem firms. So if manufacturers get engaged, speak up and come together at events, you have an opportunity to convince or at least showcase the value of the industry to let the local government know where they can create legislation and bills, and laws to support the industry. What you put in is what you get out of it. If you're looking internally, you can look forward and really take into consideration of continuous improvement mindset. That continuous improvement mindset could be that advocacy push, that engagement, always trying to improve how you engage with your local community or your production line. How can you advance yourself to really kind of drive your own business forward in a way? It's not all new tech, but there is a lot of new tech involved too so don't be turned away by buzzwords where the buzzwords are really, at least pieces of stuff you can implement today. Systems, automation processes, robotics that you can implement today. Lastly, never, never, ever be too busy to approve. That's my biggest thing. If you're too busy to improve, you're just going to keep on taking steps backward. It's not going to stay the same, you're not going to continue that growth. You're always going to have to improve and find that time to take those steps forward.
Can the manufacturing industry benefit from Digital networking tools to help promote themselves in the industry?
It doesn't necessarily have to be that much of a shift off of improving your business or improving your standing within the state in terms of an industry because digital tools are all a different way that you can kind of get the word out there and advocate for yourself, find and connect with thought leaders who might have some insight of how you can find continuous improvement for yourself in business. So you can look inwards, and again, look towards the community, look towards the government and figure out different ways that you can promote yourself as a thought leader or connect with people that are thought leaders in the industry to learn from speak up about. Also, USA manufacturing hour on Twitter is a great chat, #USAMFGHOUR. It happens every Thursday, it's a big community of manufacturers that come together, they all talk on Twitter answered questions on a specific topic and it's just a great networking opportunity. You can use these digital tools like Twitter, or even if you want to look at automation, for continuous improvement, use these digital tools to really bolster your business, bolster your brand, bolster your image, and get the most out of what these technologies can offer. It doesn't just have to be kind of a superficial thing, it really could be a tool to be used to improve your manufacturing operation as a whole.
Can you share with us one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you've had?
It goes back to the USA Manufacturing Hour and maybe it's not my most successful, but it's a great kind of case study for how networking can kind of evolve. So we were doing one of these Twitter chats, which evolved into a zoom mixer, and everyone's going around the zoom call introducing themselves and I was kind of just writing names down that resonated with me. The conversations were great, the breakout sessions were great, but one name and one person and one company in there really stood out. They seem familiar so I reached out and direct messaged them in the zoom chat and as I hit send, they hit send and we connected. We had a meeting after the zoom chat and we're talking both in manufacturing marketing spaces, different mediums. I'm copy communications, they were digital and photography and video. We were just talking and we realized we ended up knowing the same people, actually family friends from when we were children. So how weird that is, and how funny that is in and of itself is just an interesting story of how connections are made. But it actually turned into a pretty good friendship and because we are all in that same networking circle, we've actually been able to create this great professional relationship where we share ideas, share contacts, and it's astonishing how many of the same people we knew, or how many people that I've been engaged with, that they've been trying to get in touch with, and vice versa. So we really became this great little team of just friends that are in the same industry, after the same kind of work, and have been able to bounce ideas back and forth and really grow our network together. So because of that, it really helped expand our reach. We've had actually, national news networks reach out to us because of the engagement that we've been able to do and the PR that we've been able to put out through these networking events. So it really goes to show that a small coincidence of how it took an hour of my time today to get on that mixer to really kind of expand the reach in a big, big way.
As you continue to meet new people and expand and grow your community, how do you stay in front of them and best nurture these relationships?
I love to do reminders on my Outlook calendar. Sometimes I'll just put a, "Hey, let's just throw a time on the calendar in the next quarter," we'll connect we'll touch base, we'll shoot an email back and forth to see if there's a reason to get on a call. It really is just constant maintenance. That's a challenging part of any relationship, right? That nurturing, staying engaged, but the digital tools that we have are just fantastic. We have the Outlook calendar, we have LinkedIn, we have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, it's easy to keep on sharing content. You know what? When they pop up on my newsfeed, and I haven't spoken to them in a while, I'm gonna shoot him a text to see if everything's good has business. But also creating opportunities to re-engage. We have Manufacturing Matters, our quarterly magazine that takes contributors, advertising opportunities, and it's great. Every quarter there's new reasons to reach out to new contacts that we've made over the quarter, over the year, over the decade, and reach out say, "Hey, do you want to contribute an article? How's everything going?" So it's about creating your own reasons to reach out, opportunities, content that is mutually beneficial, has been the most beneficial, and of course, utilizing those digital tools that we have at our fingertips.
What advice would you offer the business professionals looking to grow their network?
Get out there, talk to Lori, get connected with the local communities and also your social communities? When I first started going to Manufacturer Hour, I said to myself, "There's no way there's going to be a Twitter following per manufacturer." Not only was I wrong, there already was, but getting engaged and getting actively engaged in it helped it grow and it just snowballs. You'd be so surprised how many places there are for niche industries. So just going out and doing a quick Google search, a quick networking event. Just go out there and talk to people, that's really everything. Whether it's on Twitter, whether it's on LinkedIn, stay consistent with it and really educate yourself so when you have those meetings, you have those conversations where you can provide value and then they can provide value back. So it's a two-way street there.
That's a good question. Probably fewer video games and TV. More industry publications and case studies. Education is everything and staying plugged in with the industry is everything. I was lucky enough to start my career in this specific space at 22 so that's really where I kind of dove in and started learning about the industry and reading all those articles. I would also tell myself to take a few more English classes and writing classes to hone that in and even more so because right now, content is always king, whether it's video, audio, or written! So any production courses that you can use to produce your own content, whether it's an article on LinkedIn, a quick little video that you're going to shoot and share to your network. Learning the industry, I would put that number one, and then two, anything that can help you my 20-year-old self produced better, more consistent content.
I know exactly who! Jim Womack, no relation by the way. They call him the godfather of Lean Manufacturing which is a methodology that helps cut out waste in a production operation. When I was learning about the industry reading about Lean, it's a great topic for manufacturers because it's a great way to do more with fewer people and fewer resources. The name Womack kept on popping up, my own last name, and I was so confused and then Jim Womack ended up being the person that really kind of brought Lean to the forefront in America from Japan. So I know Harry Moser actually owns a house right next to him so I think I can get him.
Connect with Mike
Jeff is a life architect, owner of Creative Web Studios, and mentor to young entrepreneurs. Many people will tell you where to go, what to do and how to live, but there's a higher path and calling inside of you that only you can unearth. It's time to stop living by other people's scripts and expectations for your life and have your own awakening.
So let's talk about your marketing agency. How did you get started?
Sure. So I followed up a pretty typical entrepreneurial dream. If you're like me, you go to school, perhaps your parents tell you to go to college, or they want to push you to get some stable jobs somewhere. So I did all that I had a good run, I went to the University of North Florida, got my computer science degree, and quickly here in Jacksonville, Florida launched out into corporate working at a large municipality, so electric, water, wastewater, and there are about 2000 people there. I enjoyed it and had a pension plan to work there for 32 years get 80% of your salary for life. I rose to the top there in leadership and got an interim director position and I remember I had this epiphany one day I was in this old civil service looking wood panel building well maintained, but from like the 60s, and I just looked across the table and this awesome colleague, Richard was there. He was about seven years out from retirement, and he just made a marginal amount of money more than me. I was just like, dude, I gotta do this for like 25 more years, day after day, you know, do this 45-minute commute and I just realized it wasn't for me. So I had a computer science degree, I minored in graphic design so I had all this creativity. At that time, in 2005, websites were really starting to pop and they were kind of hard to build. So I started moonlighting on the side, and I hatched this little six-month plan in 2005 where I said I'll just give it a go for a year and if it works out great, and if it doesn't, I'll just hop back into corporate so boom, that independence, autonomy, that entrepreneurial dream, that's how I founded the agency back in 2005.
How did you set it up so that the business is running without your day-to-day involvement?
Yeah, so over time, and it's taken a while I just slowly fired myself from positions and for a few reasons. Some stuff I was never good at, I was pretty sloppy at the invoicing and collecting. Obviously, I ultimately did it, but you can really get that stuff on a machine and I'll have problems there. So that was an example of something as soon as I could get like the CPA help or like the accounts receivable help I did, but then other things just logically made sense. So I was going out on my own, and I sold five websites, and say, a site at the time took me 40 hours to code. Well, that's 200 hours just for the coding part of the site. So at that point, I really couldn't go in on any more business so I just saw certain stuff I had mastered and I was good at, it was time for someone else to do it. So slowly but surely I started to outsource stuff. Coding is pretty technical so you can outsource it and not have to worry about the language barrier. Then finally, I got to the point today where I love selling but different people do an amazing job at it so when leads come in, they do it. So I just slowly fired myself and changed my position and got to go into more of a leadership role, like giving back and helping others and doing some mentoring. So that's been the progression, fire yourself from things that you've mastered, like give someone else the opportunity and things that you're never good at, get those off your plate as soon as possible.
What are the biggest marketing mistakes that you see small businesses making?
What I find is business owners don't take into account everything that goes into their online presence. So a lot of times we might focus on redesigning the site, or we might be like, I want to show up for spine pain relief doctor so we'll launch a Google AdWords campaign and focus just on that. All those things are going to be great, the website should be up to par, Google text ads, Google AdWords can be a good route to go. But a lot of times, the practice owner doesn't take into account all the various ways that their practice may be found. Let's just say Jacksonville, Jackspinepain.com. Well, as a prospective patient, or someone doing research having been referred to them, I'm most likely not going to type in that domain name. So I'm going to Google like Jacksonville spine and pain center, maybe some variant of the doctor's name, and then that Google search results page is going to return and that's where it gets interesting. There are the maps listings, and there might be multiple locations for a bigger Medical Center and there are the reviews there, there are health grades where the doctors are listed, there are social media that comes up for them. So all these are potential avenues for your customers to find you and I find a lot of times businesses, you know, they'll really focus on trying to hit a home run with one area and not take into account the whole journey in having each of those pieces at least buttoned up or where to some degree. For doctors like reviews are super important and a lot of times in spine pain, perhaps it's a more elderly population so useability on the site. That's kind of how we like to guide people, take a comprehensive look at their online presence because a lot of times they think, "Oh, we're just gonna start posting on social it's gonna fix everything," or, "Oh, we just need to get some better reviews and we're don," and it doesn't work like that, no marketing works like that frankly.
For sure, and it's actually going on right now. So last fall I started guesting on podcasts. I had some time to give back and talk about entrepreneurship, mentoring, marketing. So randomly I stumbled in this community and they're at podmax.co and they hosted this a virtual all-day event and as part of attending, you get to guest on three podcasts. So I find that the podcasting community, even what we're doing right now is really open-minded. Everybody's out to help each other, it's not competitive. You and I both run digital agencies but the chances of us stumbling on the same client and like pitching to the same people is slim to none. So I find that being a guest on a podcast, or in our case, we started our own and we are 20 episodes in right now, it's just been a wonderful way to connect with people, have conversations that we're already having kind of like you and I would talk about this if we weren't on a podcast. But being on a podcast really forces us to say it in a way that would be useful to the masses and be useful to your audience here. So I love podcasts for networking, I've gotten the most value out of that. I put one-second one on there, with the pandemic and people being so comfortable on zoom, having those virtual ones to ones has been really cool. People at times have been isolated, or you've always gone to like some physical conference and all the rigor more doing that and I find that getting a nice home office setup and getting the lighting good and virtual coffees have been really fun. So those are two things I've been knocking out a lot during the last six months and really meeting some cool people.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture these relationships?
So that's something we're figuring out now. Previously, I wasn't active on social media and didn't really have a reason to be. At the time, when I first put out that message on mentoring out there, I realized the power of social media. That's so funny, but I didn't have any need to build a personal brand or do anything like that and as part of this experience I did launch my own website and own brand. I really honed in on what I was about with entrepreneurship, with marketing with mentoring. Out of that I, you know, got on social and for me, I found that Facebook and LinkedIn have been awesome. So as I've guessed it on these podcasts, many times the guest or the host will produce a little video snippet, take out a high point, do a bunch of tagging and when we have guests on there, we do the same. So we'll get this little video snippet going, that pulls out the high point of their interview, tagged them up mentioned their thing that's going on, and a lot of times, they'll be shared on that network. So it's been really cool as we've met various guests, other marketing agency owners, ours is about growing your business. So it's really cool to bring out these stories and see them share it out on their network and we’re tagged in them.
What advice would you offer that professional who's really looking to grow their network?
Find something that works for you that you can sustain. Having launched our own podcast a couple of months ago and determining what networks to get on, it's whatever creates the least friction. So do that. So if you like to write, write! Get it out there in an email newsletter, get it out there on a blog, get it out there in social media, and have it be more written and verbal. If you like to connect with people like I do. I'll do like a live with Jeff and I'll get people on a little five-minute live q&a on my Facebook page. So for me, I love connecting with other people. I love sharing their stories, I love the energy that comes from doing a live so for me, that's the most frictionless way. Having that podcast live and knowing this Friday at 12 just excites me and gets me going, where someone really might like writing and so there's still a place for blogs, there's still a place for an email newsletter. Consistency is the main thing so the thing that causes the least amount of friction, do that thing and do it for a long while before you change it.
So I had a computer science degree and I could code the website, either graphic design monitor enjoyed the design, but I kind of moved at a pretty slow pace when it came to delegating and getting stuff off my plate. I had a lot of pleasure in building out the team and the leadership aspect of it. So I would tell my younger self, "Hey, move a little faster for getting some stuff off your plate." I had to think big picture and give someone else an opportunity so I could build a team together. A lot of times I have remote workers that just kind of stayed in a little box and it's a lot more rewarding for me at least to connect with others. So I'd say Jeff, get out of your shell, delegate more quickly and you'll have greater life satisfaction.
Connect with Jeff
Jeff’s Website: https://www.jeffvenn.com/
Create Web Studios: https://createwebstudios.com/
Gail has a Degree in Journalism and Masters in curiosity! She guides clients to success with a marketing strategy centered around telling stories and making the right connections. How? Sign up, suit up, show up. Her resume includes media fundraising, advertising, PR, and owning a b&b. Gail now is a powerhouse connector, strategic brand consultant, and keynote speaker with a focus on manufacturing. She is a Twitter evangelist, a passionate networker, and an avid storyteller.
As I stated in the bio, but you're calling yourself a chief curiosity officer. Why is curiosity so important to you in the new virtual manufacturing marketing world?
Well, with curiosity, I encourage people to use it. First of all, I use it because that's how I really did the pivot into learning more about this world because I was a journalist, which I covered a lot of different topics. But manufacturing, I did not know much about that, and certainly, I've been doing work in mold-making, which is a very niche world and I use curiosity for me to learn. But then when I'm teaching now and working with clients in that world, I'm encouraging them to be curious about marketing, curious about outreach, curious about how can they make a change from the traditional trade shows. Especially since the pandemic, things have changed, and it's a disruption, not an interruption. So we're not going to go back to the way it was, it forever changed how we're going to be doing things and even if we go back to live, there's still going to be a digital component. So curiosity is like a muscle, if you're not using it, it just won't grow and curiosity is about growing, learning, and exploring the virtual world that for some people may seem overwhelming to them and may even seem a bit scary. So that's why I say number one if you're curious, you can learn so many new things, and become more adept at how to use all these virtual technologies.
Can you share some tips to help salespeople that are in the manufacturing industry that are trying to get away from the trade shows to best understand selling in the digital marketing world?
It is about asking those questions and first doing your research. So I always say before you try to sell to anyone, first learn about who your clients are and what they're looking for. What's happening is those same clients are doing that with you. They're doing research about your company, they're looking at your social media, they're looking at websites, they want to know who you are before they're even gonna think about buying from you. So you need as a salesperson to do the same thing. Dig in, find out who they are as much as possible. There's a lot of information you can find online about someone and some people and I've had some salespeople kind of feel uncomfortable with that they feel like "Well, I'm nosing around." I said, "In this world, if someone posts something publicly, they post it on a social media platform, it is done because they want to share something." So that's one tip is to do your research. The other thing is instead of selling, be generous with your information, share your knowledge, try to be a guide to who you're trying to sell to. So if you're in an engineering role, as a salesperson, you want to share all the intricacies of what goes into everything. Give me some insights, and I mean, give me meaning the person looking at your profile. One of the big stop gaps for a lot of the people in sales that I'm finding manufacturing is they go, "They're gonna know this," or, "If I explain this, most people already know this, I don't want them to think that I don't know it." So I said, "You'd be surprised at what people may want to learn about, and the people that may be doing the research aren't always the people that know about how that tool works, or what machine is on that tool. So be that guide, share information, and also share a bit of information about yourself. So if you have an interest in, for example, I may post something related to cycling, I got into cycling. So you need to focus on what are some of the interests that I have that might relate to even my role. We know when it comes to connecting with people, if you have a common interest it can be beneficial. Now, Lori, I know from your podcast that I know you're into cycling, so that we had a conversation about cycling, and what bike you use and so that's another thing. I make the correlation back to trade shows as well, when they went to a trade show, they would have been having these casual conversations. So it's about taking those casual conversations in real life and bringing them over to the virtual world.
Why do you think there's a resistance to virtual networking especially in the manufacturing space?
This is something I've actually been studying because as I came into this world of working in the manufacturing sector and trying to understand it. When I find resistance, I'm the kind of person I step back and I question why is that, what's happening? So I did a lot of listening, I asked for some feedback and it comes down to one is a lack of understanding of how social media works. So that means we need to do better in how we're explaining that. The other is fear. Fear of the unknown and most people naturally don't like change. It's like those comfortable shoes, right? You get into this comfortable lifestyle and then if someone comes along and says "Let's change," sometimes we resist. Now maybe because I've had some life changes for myself but I think it's also I can roll with things fairly easy and I actually find change exciting. I know not everybody is as excited about changes as I am so it's about trying to find that middle ground that balance and again, that goes back to utilizing curiosity because the more you're learning, the more you're asking questions, without fail, you will overcome some of those fears. It's like anything we fear things we don't know, we don't understand and once we learn about it, it makes it so much easier. So that's the work I'm doing right now is really taking a few steps back and also showing not telling. A lot of it goes back to what I say, "You have to just show up." Step one is just show up and trust in the process and then you can overcome. So in terms of why is there resistance, it goes back to, they've done trade shows before and that's the way they've always done it which worked for them. So there is a resistance to change. So mindset is also big and I've had these talks that if you're not going to have that open mind, then you're probably going to have some difficulties. So you have to make some decisions, and for me, I use the example of I get up at 5:30, I have my cold shower, I do my workout before I start my day because I'm not going to do it at the end of the day. I know I won't so if I'm going to get my workouts in my mindset is that I put my feet on the floor and I begin and I have conversations in my head like, "I don't want to do this." I think of all the excuses, but I just say, "Get going get going," and it's the same thing with networking when it comes to manufacturing. Sometimes you've got to do things you don't want to do as much.
Can you share one of your favorite networking stories with our listeners?
I have so many and networking has been the foundation of probably everything I've done from my high school days through to now but I'm going to give one that's more recent because it shows the trajectory of where I've come from on Twitter over to even being here today talking to you. So I started using Twitter. Then I was on a Twitter chat with Madalyn Sklar called Twitter Smarter and from there I met Nathalie Gregg, who had a Twitter chat called Lead Loudly. So I was on there and connected somehow with Jen Wagman, who introduced me to the USA Manufacturing Hour Twitter chat, which I did not know about. I'm now involved in that and they had a live networking event where I met Kurt Anderson who then introduces me to Sam Gupta and he also introduced me to you! So through all of this, I have been taking this path, and each of those people I now know and I know I can call them up, I can have a conversation and they have helped open doors for me. So that's my favorite networking because I can almost see this map taking me across all different networks from Twitter to LinkedIn, to zoom, and all of these other different platforms. So I didn't know some of them, but the reason I say just show up is because when I just show up, that's where the magic happens.
How do you stay in front of, invest, and nurture the relationships you're creating?
For me, I would say certain things are like breathing for me. So I do it naturally and I'm on so many different platforms and it's not that I'm there all the time and I'm not always online, I have a very active life outside of sitting at my computer on my phone. But it's about consistency. For example, in some of the networking groups that I go to, I try to show up regularly, maybe not all the time, but there are certain ones that it's like listening to podcasts, right? I listened to them, I have a system, and I try to just plan it into my day. People often say, "Well, I don't have time to do everything you do, Gail," and I said, "Well, we all have the same 24 hours." The same people sometimes that I hear say, "I have no time," will binge watch something on Netflix, and I'm like, "How do you have time to watch 30 programs on a Saturday, that seems strange to me." But that's because that's not a priority in my life and it's not like I don't watch Netflix shows, but I watch them differently. So to me, building relationships is crucial to my life, to my soul, and it's not just for work either. I do this because I love connecting to people and it just happens to provide phenomenal success to me from a business perspective. That's what I'm trying to work with the salespeople I say, "If you want to have an endless sales funnel, or you want to have an endless supply of people who will come to buy from you, stay connected with people build those relationships," and I very seldom ever really go on when I'm on my social media and promote what I do. In fact, a lot of people actually say, "What do you do exactly?" Because most people come and say that they want to work with me because of the relationships that were built or word of mouth.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
A lot of times people want to jump into multiple platforms and they get overwhelmed by everything. So I bring it down to the basics of if you are looking to build your business and build your contacts, you really need to start by building those relationships and connecting to people. So there are lots of opportunities now because there are groups, there are Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, there's the Friday webinar series with Kurt Anderson on the Ecommerce for Success and I show up on Fridays because they have phenomenal guests. But there's a chat down the side when the people are speaking, and people drop their LinkedIn and so it's very live in terms of I can be listening to the person speaking but we have side conversations over on the chat. So that's what I encourage people to do and it's about just showing up. So when I show up even if I think that I don't think that guests will apply to me, I still show up and have always felt like it’s worthwhile and have always connected with a new person. So that's the first thing to do. I often tell people don't worry so much about feeling you have to post every day or that you have to send out massive amounts of connections. I'm going to say this anybody listening to is that if you're on LinkedIn, and you decide that you're going to send out all these connections to people, I would say slow down, figure out why you're connecting to people and for sure, do not connect and then send them a sales pitch. I get quite a few of those and I don't even respond. Instead, for example, I may listen to someone on a podcast and I really love what they have to say. So I'll send them a connection, say I heard them on this podcast, tell them what I found interesting or what resonated with them, ask them if they'd be interested in connecting, and I leave it at that. Sometimes I just follow someone first just so I can see their information and sometimes they will send me a connection. So it's about building relationships first and setting aside the selling, don't try to push what you have on to people, instead build those relationships. I say this because manufacturers did this when they went to trade shows. So I often say, "What did you do at a tradeshow? Did you walk up to someone put your hand out said hello, and then say, do you want to buy a tool for me?" I know they didn't do that so I tell them not to do that on social media. So instead, I think I may have heard it, even by one of your guests, it's social media, not social selling. So be social, be engaging, be generous, be kind, I think that you can disagree with someone and not have to always make it a public disagreement. So just find people that you feel you can have a conversation with.
This is a really good question because it really makes you think about what would I do. Maybe when I was younger I would answer differently because my life has actually taken a different path than I thought I was going to take from high school. Probably I'd say, to keep doing what I'm doing because I'm now in a place in my life that I actually love what I do, I'm not looking to say, "Hey, when do I get to retire?" I love the people I'm meeting so I probably just say keeping curious and keep showing up even more. Maybe one thing I'd say is to own your power a bit earlier in life. I think I might have thought of ways that instead of shrinking back sometimes, own your power and now I use that as part of my planning and work with clients is own your power.
What is the final word of advice that you'd offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
First, your mindset, you have to decide this is what you want, and break it down into bite-sized pieces. I use the analogy of when I'm planning out a campaign for a salesperson, sometimes people at the start of the year, they'll say, "I want to do a marathon," for example. Well, you can have that as your goal and it can sit there staring at you for a long time. But if you then break it down and say, "I'm going to start with first walking around the block once a day during week one, week two I'm going to double that, week three I'm going to do a little light jog," so you put it into bite-sized pieces. I say the same thing when it comes to networking so first show up and just listen. and break it down into steps and ask for help, there are people like myself out here willing to help. Listen to podcasts, become educated, I listen to a lot of manufacturing podcasts as well and that's how I've learned. So start somewhere, then show up.
Connect with Gail
He is the founder of Voice Express Corporation, with multiple patents covering the personalization of voice-enabled print media, and VOT (the voice of things), Stern has been at the forefront of using voice to drive commerce and customer engagement. Stern's products have been used in over 60 million Build-a-Bears in sentiment expression, photo imaging, direct mail, packaging, and point of sale signage to name a few.
Does every product, service, and brand need a voice, and how do you discover that voice?
I think when we're in school, we're always asked to find our own voice, whether we're writing or whether we're an artist. Think of a child where the first thing that they do, the first interaction that they have is to hear their loved one mother's or father's voice and to start to gurgle and interact with the world through voice. So voice is very primal and it's also a primal trigger. There were some brands that really kind of feature themselves and define themselves through audio. There were others, especially business to business type brands that might not realize that they have a voice too and they have a voice in the larger sense of the world in the sense that whether you sell a spring or a widget or personal care products when the customer uses it, your brand should be delivering a message that is more than just the physical product or service. So our company, as you said, is involved with linking products that can speak, can engage, can interact with the consumer. But I would suggest that anyone listening who is involved with any sort of branding, whether it be a product, a service, or just their own personal capital, needs to have a voice and needs to explore ways to engage with that voice and to flesh out all of the different personalities, characteristics, and aspects of that voice.
How does a brand innovate and keep fresh?
It's part of the sense of a voice and there is kind of a new tagline out there. It's called conversational commerce and it doesn't necessarily relate to products like mine that literally talk. But ultimately, whenever you have a customer who's interacting with a product, there's a conversation, and it's a two-way conversation. So brands that are growing, are constantly listening to their customers and hoping that their customers are also listening to them. One of the things that we did during the past year and so many brands have pivoted is we started offering our products on Amazon. We did it for the obvious reasons of having another channel of revenue, but more to the point because we are a technology enabler and many times stand quietly, silently behind the brand, when you offer something direct to consumer through Amazon so that we don't have to get involved with customer service, shipping, and delivery, it enables us to everyday look at the comments and look at the way that our customers are using our products. Frankly, most of our best ideas literally come from our customers. So I think the secret to growth is really listening to the users of your products, watching how they engage with your products or services and that's the best source of innovation.
What is the future of voice and what do you see happening with the voice of things?
Well, I think the biggest misconception about voice in terms of the recent introduction of smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home, or even Siri is that these are voice assistants, they're smart, they're artificial intelligence-driven. It's all true, but at a much lower level their interfaces are more in line with a mouse or a touchscreen, they're simply a way of interacting with other devices that maybe don't need touch and maybe have a higher level of privacy because every voice has its own coding. But I think that a voice, on the one hand, has to be put up on a pedestal in terms of, "Wow, this is amazing what you can do with it!" But on the other hand, it has to be integrated into all of the simple, trivial, habitual things that we do, and again, it's not the end-all of everything. When it's appropriate, when you need a hands-free environment, voice is great. Sometimes you need to move from voice, to screen, to mouse, to a touchpad. So it's just another tool in the arsenal, but it's a very powerful tool and the beautiful thing about it is the more it gets us the better it gets. So I think that we are going to find voice integration and voice interaction in more and more products, and it's going to impact how we humanoids converse because we're going to learn to appreciate that voice is something that needs to be used just to establish a conversation and an interaction.
Well, I've started my company from the beginning, and we're 20 plus years old as a virtual company, pretty much. We manufacture a lot of stuff in the Far East. I have software programmers and hardware engineers that I've worked with for over 20 years, but it's based on a network. It's a kind of a precursor of the gig economy and I just love waking up in the morning and not knowing who I'm going to be talking to, where they're located, what timezone they're on. But I think what you need to do in terms of networking, is to be open to the serendipity of finding relationships, finding things in common and I think people are very open to that. So networking is something that one should look at as something that is actually enjoyable and opens up your little world to the global economy in ways that never could happen before. We can network today as we've never networked before.
How do you stay in front of them best nurture these relationships, especially on a global level?
Well, I think the most important thing, and this is a trite answer, but character. You need to know and your network of friends and associates need to know that your word is your word, that if you say you're going to help, if you say you're going to look into something you will. That is this cement of any network that people have confidence in you. We talked today about influences, and we are all micro-influencers, and we're all brand ambassadors, and all of that is based on trust in someone else expanding your reach which ultimately, is what networking is about.
What advice would you offer to those business professionals really looking to grow their network?
You have to be seen and heard, you can't grow a network by living in a cave. So it's not giving up everything that you've done and dedicating an hour a day to troll, whether it's LinkedIn or other social networking platforms. I just think it means that doing what you do integrate into your life, the ability when you get a good idea, to share it, or when you embark on a project to share that journey. You have to integrate it into your life, as opposed to segregating it out of your life. If you do that, then it becomes something very natural and I think that is probably not only the best way to do it, but if you if you're talking to somebody and they want to network, more than likely if you ask them to change the way they do business or work, it's a tough lift. But if you ask them to enhance the way they do what they're doing already or to share it more, or to be open to learning from others, then networking can become much more natural.
I think delegating is my biggest challenge. I'm an entrepreneur and it's wonderful to sing the praises of being a virtual company, and having all of these networks, but in my particular regard, the challenge is on the other side to be able to let go and to launch an idea and let other people take it from there. Ultimately, that is the most profound way we can network. It comes to when we raise children and all of a sudden they say something that we didn't teach them but they extrapolated from something that we said so you kind of see your ideas take on a new life. It's the same in business and I just have to learn and I'm constantly striving to throw out an idea or throw out a project, and then see where it goes using its own inertia.
There are so many people that I admire in the tech world. I think that I have some people that I've looked at forever, some of them are no longer with us, whether it's a Steve Jobs or others. But I think that actually, to focus on just one person is probably selling oneself short. I think that one has to find the Steve Jobs or the iconic person inside of pretty much everyone. If we drill down, I think we'll rather than trying to extend our six degrees, I think within six degrees, we can find all of the role models and mentors that we probably need.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Always experiment or try something new. The worst that can happen is you fail, but no one has succeeded without failing and keep trying, and ultimately, something is going to work out. Sometimes you send out 100 messages, 100 emails, you post X amount of times, and it's that one lead that can change everything. So keep at it, keep trying, always experiment and try something new.
Connect with Geoffrey
If you want a sample of Geoffrey’s new product, Connect, reach out to me (lori.highby@keystoneclick) and if you are one of the first 25 listeners to reach out, you will receive your sample!
After almost 30 years with Monofrax, Valerie has progressed from Clerk to Marketing Manager. She's just beginning to network and has found that the last year of virtual networking meetings and webinars was the perfect place to start. Just don't ask her to attend a speed networking event!
I'm curious why you're not interested in speed networking, is there any reason why?
Speed networking is sort of my worst nightmare. I mean, frankly, it's the business version of speed dating, and I'm just like, "Oh, this is so bad," and especially for someone who's an introvert that likes to have a few moments to think before they answer on anything, the pressure is a little too much.
I totally understand. So tell me a bit about Monofrax and what you guys do.
The short boring answer is that we are a manufacturer of fused cast refractories. The more interesting answer is that we are a foundry that does not pour steel, we pour artificial stone.
What exactly is artificial stone?
Well, first of all, we're at twice the temperature of lava, which I think is really cool and we're pouring blocks that are to be used for the linings of glass furnaces and metal furnaces.
So who's your buyer that's buying from you?
Predominantly our customers are the glass industry and light steel or light metal. We've also been used for nuclear vitrification and we have a global presence and we have been selling worldwide for the last 30 years.
What's it like coming into a marketing role without any experience in that space?
It was a little frightening because I have no background and no experience. But on the other hand, I consider it a huge advantage because if I'd taken marketing 30 years ago in college, things have changed so much since then that I'm looking at it with fresh eyes. Nothing is out of the question and I'm just willing to throw myself into it completely.
What was your biggest challenge that you faced moving into this role?
The biggest challenge has been the organization, marketing, strategy, and plans. All of those things that I probably would have learned if I'd studied in college. The rest of it would be the writing for social media, and articles for industry magazines, those things came a lot easier.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking experiences that you’ve had?
My favorite probably is when this all started and I can either blame or credit Kurt Anderson, for all of this who I know he's been a guest on your podcast. I attended a Manufacturing Marketing World Conference back in 2019, sat in the center of the room and this gentleman comes and sits next to me and starts a conversation. He's as energetic as always, he's the biggest cheerleader for manufacturing and that's where it all started. I started talking to him and then when he started his manufacturing Ecommerce Success Series, I started attending that and I started networking with the people that were also in that attending and it sort of just started rolling from there.
As you continue to connect and meet with new people, how do you best nurture these relationships that you're creating?
I'm probably not really good at the nurturing part, I'm better at the connecting part because I go to a webinar, if it's one that's weekly or bi-weekly and I consistently go I get to the point where I recognize the other people in the room. Then it's much easier to go down the chat list or look at the people in the gallery and go, "Oh, okay, I need to connect with this person, and then I can write them a quick message on LinkedIn and say, Hey, I see you're attending the same webinar." So I already have my script prepared, because we're doing something together at the same time, we have the same interest and it just makes it a whole lot easier to do that.
What advice would you offer that business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
Probably to do something very similar, where you're going to a webinar series or something else like that and on a consistent basis, you're seeing the same people and you can start to come up with a list of who looks interesting who can help you, which is my primary reason for networking because since I'm new to marketing, I'm looking for all the people that I can that are experts because I figured why not learn from the best? Then you'll know who you would be interested in marketing and networking with which makes it a whole lot easier.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, would you tell yourself to do more or less than or differently with regards to your professional career?
I think if I went back to my 20-year-old self, I would say, take more risks. Don't be quite so afraid of doing things, you're more capable than you think you are.
Connect with Valerie:
Andy was a business executive who learned to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing, highly uncertain environment. Now, he's a leadership coach and career strategist who helps individuals who want to go from just getting by, to having insanely awesome careers. Andy is a Certified Professional Coach, has an MBA in management, is certified as an expert in Lead Management Systems, and is a Board Certified Healthcare Administrator.
I'm curious to learn about what led you to change careers and become a leadership coach, could you tell us a bit about that process?
Wow, that's a great question. Not to be boastful, but I had a pretty successful career. As you mentioned in the intro, my career was in healthcare administration and so I had a really good career, I had some great mentors and I worked for some great organizations. But I got to a point in my career, kind of a crossroads, where I thought that I've got the second half of my career to look forward to, and how do I really want to spend that? What I really enjoyed most about my career, up to that point was helping develop others in seeing future leaders grow and develop and advance their careers. I was involved in a lot of extracurricular professional organizations and such, where I found myself speaking to large audiences about career advancement, working with individuals, one on one mentoring individuals. So when I got to that crossroads, in my career, I made the decision that what I enjoy most about leadership is helping others develop as leaders. I found this thing called coaching, that, quite frankly, I didn't know much about myself. It's just one of those things that just really spoke to me and really hit on a lot of my personal values and passions. Over the last few years, I took the time to deliberately make that transition and become certified and I'm enjoying the heck out of working with folks as they want to advance their careers and have those insanely awesome careers.
It sounds like more and more people are finding coaching as a pathway to their career advancement, why do you think that is?
We can't ignore what happened over the last year, but up into and through and even now, to this point, the corporate environment, the business world itself has just become so competitive and so fast-paced and constantly evolving. New changes are happening every day, especially with innovation and, and the digital era that we're in. It's hard for a leader to keep up with everything so you have a lot of working professionals, you have dual-income families where the husband and the wife, or the spouses are both working and raising families. So there's just a lot on people's plates these days. I think individuals are looking for ways to continue to have that competitive advantage in the workplace, and continue to advance their careers. For so long coaching has been this wizard behind the curtain kind of thing, if you will, where folks have heard of it, but don't really know much about it, and haven't looked into it all that much and one of the things that have really helped coaching kind of launch more into the mainstream and be more evident, is the digitization of it. So many organizations are going to online virtual platforms, much like we're doing here with the podcast, where you can work with a coach from your home, the coach can be anywhere in the world. So it's a great opportunity to work with somebody to put together your plan of action. The biggest thing about a coach is that a coach is not an advisor, they're not a counselor, they're not a mentor, they don't have all the answers for you, a coach really believes that you have all the answers you need and that you know your path forward, you have the skills that will make you successful. So a coach kind of helps draw that out and package that up in such a way that you have the vision and the pathway forward, to help with your success. Individuals are looking for things like work-life balance, or career advancement, or maybe even thinking about a career change themselves and are curious about the steps to make that career change. The idea of becoming a solopreneur these days is very attractive and so folks trying to maybe get out of the corporate grind like me, and looking to put their thoughts together into, "Is that the right move for me? Should I make that move? What are the pros and cons of all of that?" A coach is really there to help you think through all of those kinds of things and really press you to take some action.
What are some of the myths that you hear around coaching that you'd like to dispel?
I think the biggest myth is that coaching is needed when you have a performance improvement plan, or when your organization has decided that they need to see your performance improve. So it's almost punitive, in a sense that coaching has traditionally been looked at that way. Everything that I just described up until this point, would really dispel that myth. It is a very proactive way to manage yourself, manage your career, manage your life, manage your family, your finances, and so on and so forth. Anything you can think of that you want to improve on, a coach can help you with that. I think a lot of folks also tend to lump mentors and coaches together. Those are similar, but there are some differences there. A mentor to somebody you go to when you want to walk in their shoes, and you want to learn the way that they got to where they are so you're looking to understand exactly what they did and follow in their footsteps. Again, as I said a minute ago, coaching is not that. Coaching believes you already know what you want to do, what you need to do, and is going to help you put those thoughts into action. I think the last myth with coaching, that I think is important to understand is that, like mentoring folks, especially in leadership, tend to think that attending leadership development programs or signing up for leadership development cohorts is similar. I always like to think that leadership development is one thing that is very helpful. I had a lot of opportunities in my past career with leadership development, and it was great and it helped me advance my career, but there was never a partner that I had through any leadership development program who was going to help me put a lot of what I learned in development programs into play. So what I like about coaching is that you have that accountability partner who is going to make sure that all of the skills and abilities that you've acquired through the years, whether it be through experience or whether it be through formal development, that you're employing those in the workplace and in your field of expertise, and really bringing out the best in yourself. Then coaches make sure they are holding you accountable to making sure that you are performing at your best.
Can you help me do that by sharing with our listeners, one of your most successful favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I didn't realize until a short time ago that I would label myself as kind of a perpetual networker. It is something that's always been important to me, especially in my career to be involved in various ways especially through professional organizations. For me, I was a member and still am a member and have been in leadership roles with the American College of Healthcare Executives. So again, that was my past career as a healthcare executive. Now, as a leadership coach, I still work with many healthcare executives as well. So it's still important to me to maintain that networking relationship with the American College of Healthcare Executives. But even personally, getting involved with things at school, with the kids, with the church, with things in the community. I think it's important to have a balance so that you don't overindulge yourself in networking. My favorite networking experiences, though, are those ones where you really develop lasting relationships. So one in particular, that I'm thinking of was early on in my career when I was first getting into leadership and really looking at how could I formulate that my vision and my career goals. I reached out to somebody who was a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives who ended up becoming a really close friend of mine. We talk regularly, our kids ended up playing on the same little league team together for a while. So we kind of followed each other in terms of our career path and obviously, I'm on a different path now than he is, but it was something that we always found each other is kind of confidants and friends and, helpful advisors, if you will, and mentors to each other. I can't say enough about the value of networking in terms of developing those types of relationships that you can always leverage because we all need what I call your personal Board of Directors, for your career or life, and networking is a great way to build that personal Board of Directors.
How do you stay in front of these relationships that you're creating and cultivating your community?
I think one of the silver linings to really come out of this pandemic is the ability to stay connected virtually. When we were all working from home, and it was difficult to go out to networking events or have a lunch meeting or anything like that, you found that you can stay in touch virtually by having virtual coffee sessions, or even just messaging on LinkedIn, just to check in with folks. I always made it a goal throughout the last year to, check in with a certain number of folks a week. They were who I was going to check in with just to see how things are going. What was great about that was I was reaching out to folks that were outside of my immediate area of where I lived so I was able to connect with folks across the country, who otherwise, I would not have been able to connect with and probably would have lost touch with. I can't say enough about what this last year has done for us as individuals in terms of our ability to network and expand our horizons, and meet new people and establish new connections and stay connected with old connections as well.
I really think what I would have told my younger self was to pace myself a little bit more. I think I became so focused on climbing the quote, unquote, ladder, that I missed some opportunities and experiences. I think if anything, I would go back and tell myself to just pace things out and to not get out over the tips of my skis because there's a burnout factor that's real for a lot of us when we're trying to chase something relentlessly, and missing opportunities in other ways. So that would be one of the big things because even though I definitely enjoyed my 20s and it was later in my 20s when I first started having a family, I think that that is important. You're only young once, and there's a lot to enjoy about life other than focusing too much on your career.
Do you have any final words of advice for listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Get out there and connect with folks on LinkedIn. Look for those in companies that you are interested in working for, or organizations that you're interested in being a part of, and don't be afraid to just send that connection on LinkedIn. I always like to say to attach a note to it as well. Just send a nice personal note of, "Hey, I'm interested in your company," or, "I'm interested in learning more about your organization and would you mind being my connection?" It just adds an extra little personal touch that helps to create a stronger connection, rather than just adding to your list of how many are in your network. Just get out there and do it is the best advice I can give.
Connect with Andy
John brings his experience of lead generation, marketing automation, and social media marketing to up Optessa. started out his career with New York, Community Bancorp as a marketing assistant and later worked for iCIMS and Hermetic Solutions Group and Versatile Roles, driving new business and elevating the brand within their respective industries. John holds a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and advertising from Seton Hall University.
How do you determine the channels where you have a presence online?
So I always start with doing research. I think that there are no shortage of platforms that are available to anyone these days, and there seems to be a new one every week or new features so I think it all starts with doing your research. The other piece that a lot of people forget is that you don't have to be on every single one of them. I don't think anyone really has the time to do this effectively so you have to stick to the channels where you feel you can provide the most value, jump on, and start engaging. For myself, I spend the bulk of my time on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook because that's where most of my customers are, my communities are, individuals within the industries I serve are providing value, or have a robust presence if you will. Once you've actually joined those channels and selected them, you have to start building credibility, you have to start engaging, you have to start providing value and that's another piece where when you're online, it can't always be a sales pitch. I say that a lot in the chats and in the communities I'm a part of. I tend to provide thought leadership pieces, blog posts, reports that I come by that are relevant for my industry, and I have individual look to me and my company to kind of be that soundboard of what's happening or what's trending. Then I let pieces like my website or my social profile do the selling for me, and I make sure that where I drive them gives the opportunity to engage with me, get in contact with me or members of my team so I'm less spending less time selling. So I think once you're on those channels, you have to find your way of providing value without being too salesy. So get your research, don't join every channel, you will not have enough time to have a presence on each of the channels effectively and once you're there, spend a lot of time on they're building credibility, provide value, and don't sell people every minute you're on there. Have a nice balance between the value provide and what you're selling, as well.
Why are online communities vital to the success of a business today?
Communities were what I really started doing back when I was with Hermetic Solutions Group and it was one of those things again, going back to I just said like, I was just doing my research. I had to understand where my buyers were, where my audiences were, and where I can provide the most value and ultimately return to my business. So I started building communities online, and it started with just getting that profile. So when you're looking at Twitter or LinkedIn, specifically, you have the ability to create a profile, add images, add a bio, put links, and start engaging and having people go to these profiles as an extension of your website. So I was building those communities online and then I was struggling with what next? Now what? I'm on there now, how do people find me? I really gravitated towards the online communities and what people were saying about certain topics, topics using different industry hashtags, Twitter chats had been huge, events have been tremendous and always follow the event hashtag. I tended to shy away from what's trending topics, because to me, sometimes it feels like the brand, or the company or the person is trying to stretch their purpose or their tie back to the trending topics so I kind of stay away from those. But going back to online communities, they're vital. I mean, no matter the size of your business, you need to be online, take the COVID-19, take the pandemic out of it. I think even before that, I think there was a shift of going online where more people were looking to online forums, or online channels or social media, where they're getting their news where they were talking with family and friends, where they were doing more of their networking for business, I think it was all gravitating more online. I saw a stat where the adoption of social media in the last year went up over 13%, which is another 490 million people who joined a social network in the last year. Facebook has always been the leader, but there are so many other channels, microchannels that are starting to nip at the heel of Facebook, and they're starting to provide more value to their users because they're starting to do things differently and they're starting to innovate. I think the more that this innovation is happening with these different platforms, I think you're gonna see those numbers of the users online, jump and be consistently growing by 10% year over year. Now the use of the platform's you know, some people are on them very casually, some check it every now and again, but your users like myself use it every day. Every day you can find me either sending out a tweet or a post on LinkedIn or sharing something to Facebook. I'm very active on there and I make sure that I'm engaging with my communities so they know that they can find me, they know if they send me something on one of those channels I'm going to respond, or at least I'm going to see it. As a business you have to embrace the online communities, they're not going away. The tools that are on and available, are only going to get better and I think it is only going to increase in frequency, just look at the start of things like Clubhouse or Twitter spaces and the different stories and fleets and everything else. Every channel seems to be doing very similar things, but you still see pockets where people only still use Twitter, only use LinkedIn, or people will stay with Facebook, and that's fine. But you also get people that are on all of them who share across all the platforms. So I think it's vital that if you have a business, you're trying to sell something, and you're just trying to stay relevant this day and age, you have to be online.
How do you know if things are actually working? Is it just looking at the metrics, or is it engagement? What's your take on that?
I think the piece of it when you're doing your community and I would you just said him on touch upon is there's a lot of negativity on the social platforms and it's a lot of what people see is that people just go on it and use it to complain. I think if you're a business and a customer tries reaching out, or a potential client tries reaching out and you don't answer them, that's potential money left on the table, you have to be there. You have to understand that if you have a Twitter page or a Twitter profile, and you never check it, but someone that's researching your company is sending you messages or is interacting with you and tagging you in posts and you are dormant, they're not going to engage you and then potentially you can miss out on a business opportunity with them. I would say there's a lot more positive going out on the social platforms, I don't think it's all negative. I think the negative outweighs the positive at times, but I think it quickly snaps back like a rubber band and I think people get back to business, back to what they're doing. But your question related to metrics, and how to measure what to do here. Vanity metrics are good and need to be your obsession when you're first starting out with a new profile. So if you're just starting a new profile, you want to make sure you build a following base, get those subscribers, get that community around you because that bolsters your profile and makes you feel good. When you see those numbers go up, you get those email notifications, and you start seeing the numbers go up, and you're feeling good. You can also look at what I call the thoughtless actions in many metrics. Those are things like people that are doing simple retweets, liking your posts, or simple reactions to your story. There's no real engagement, just minimal, it's almost like the person wants to like acknowledge they saw it. It's good still, but I would rather see the engagement piece of it and I think after some time of you starting to build up your profile and get those numbers and you get a follower base, and I'm not saying you need to get to thousands of followers. It doesn't matter the size of your follower base because as long as they are fans, and they are engaging with you, and you're responding to them, and you're just consistently providing value to him, I think that's enough to say you have a presence online, and when engaging can kind of look like because there are certain people that have 1000s of followers, and they put a post up and they get no interaction, no engagement, there's nothing there. Like I said, sharing it just because this celebrity said it or whatever it is, isn't really engagement. How many times you see celebrities or politicians or anyone really taking the time to really respond to every single thing that person has said, or really going back and liking or doing something that you did. There's no real engagement there. But I really think vanity is good as you start, I think that you need to make sure that you don't see a dip in the vanity metrics. If you start seeing people not following you, or unsubscribing, or if you start posting on a consistent basis, but you're not seeing as many likes or retweets, or you're not seeing those things, you might have to rethink what you're sharing because there could be that idea that your content is getting tired. I'm not saying message fatigue in terms of repetition, because that's almost like repurposing your content. But if you're saying the same thing, if you're sharing the same white paper, like people don't want to see that, they want to see new, they want exciting, they want something that you're providing more value to them. As you are building online communities you get that engagement, you actually start having conversations with people and you have conversations about different topics. If it's a topic about a product or service that you're offering even better because now you're having almost like a sales conversation without even knowing it. So you're just engaging with them, you're going back and forth, they're asking you questions, you're responding. Or you could be responding to a gripe that someone has, or you could be just offering advice. If you can speak about something, you know, I'm in service and if I can help you or if I know a software that can help or I have experience with software, I'm absolutely going to give my two cents about it if someone asks, or they're in a community in which we engage on a consistent basis, because why not? I'm here to help! Everyone should be here to help and, and bring people up instead of tearing them down on the social network. So I think vanity is good to start. I think that you should pay attention to it, focus on it, but then you should quickly look at who is engaging with me? What do they do? What are the topics and subjects that matter to them? Then see where you can take those conversations to either help your business or also help build your credibility as well.
So I love Twitter chats and I think it's an absolutely unbelievable way to network. Usually, the Twitter chats are an hour each week so there's a consistency to it. I think you jump in and you engage, and you learn from others in these Twitter chats in these communities and your network. People are always looking for on social media that return and the return is what you make of it. So you can engage with people, and then you can say, "Okay, I engaged with you for an hour, now I'm going to go away." But recently, I've been taking the conversations a step further and I've reached out to a number of individuals that I've engaged with on a community or Twitter chat for about a couple of months now. I didn't do it after my first time there, but after some time you start providing value, engaging, and getting to know the people, you can research a little bit, you can understand what they're doing, their business is doing, and you learn from them, now it's time to take the conversation to a new level. You have to reach out, you have to network, you have to better understand what all those around are doing, how you can service them, it's pretty much how we connected and why I'm on with you, which is fantastic. You have to step out, you have to take it upon yourself to network and go above and beyond. You'd be surprised that a lot more people are open and receptive to it. People forget that behind the handles online are people and there are people behind the brands. You get to know their names, you can understand who they are. You see a lot of brands and a lot of social media managers now starting to sign their names on tweets and Twitter, for example, because they want to be addressed by name, they don't want to be at x company, they want to be @Lori, or like when I'm tweeting for up Optessa, I always say it's John, or my product manager, Alex will put Alex. There are others that are doing and as well because there's a person behind there. You have to understand who's tweeting because there could be multiple people, there could be different individuals that are taking different stances. There could be a salesperson on the other end, or there could be a social manager on the other end, it could be the CEO. So it's very important when you're networking or when you're online to go and look and see the opportunities that can present themselves with consistent engagement, and don't be afraid to jump in. I would say I've had more conversations with people in the last three months than I have in three years and it was just due to the simple fact that I started to engage with people outside of the normal channel and I use Twitter chats as that gateway. So I'm consistent with a number of them, there are about eight of them that I am a frequent member of the chat there on my Twitter profile. I'm able to speak intelligently about almost everyone that engages so I know about their companies. We've either had side conversations after the chats, or I paid attention and made my own notes about them during the chats. So you had to figure out ways to network and you have to do stuff that's not your norma. It's amazing, but you can still pick up the phone, and still call people and still engage with them or shoot them a text. So there are plenty of ways to network and I think the more people do it, and the more you do it, the more you're going to like. Like I said, in the last three months, I think I've had over a dozen conversations where people on the phone or zoom or whatever it is, that I would not have gotten in front of if I didn't utilize Twitter, and the chats and decided upon myself to say that I'm going to call someone and we're gonna have a conversation. It always comes from a genuine place of I want to learn more about you and I also want to tell you about me.
How do you nurture your network and your community?
I consistently engage especially on Twitter because it's so fast-paced. I think from the Twitter chat in the communities that I'm a part of there are unbelievable opportunities within them to consistently reach out to them. On a weekly basis, you have the chat, but then you're also able to follow them, you're also able to check out their website, or their blog, or the content they're sharing outside of the chat and I make sure I show up. Of course, life happens, and there are things that get in the way and I do miss a couple of chats because there are things that come up outside of my control, but I make sure that if I can be present, I'm present. I network with the teams, I speak with them and it's not all business. People are talking about what's happening in their lives, cool new renovations, or what happened over the weekend, it's beyond the business conversation. It's almost like you nurture it to the point where you become friends, just by your tweets, and you become friends by engaging them enough on social media that you know so much about them. You know so much about people and you haven't even met them before and that's the best thing.
I would definitely say I should have networked more. I spent more time focused on the tasks within the company and didn't dedicate enough time to go into events, or networking efficiently. I also think I would have done a lot more certifications and training as well because that's another huge area where you can network and grow. I've recently done a couple of marketing certifications, and I just learned so much in those times and there is an investment, but at the same time you always have to invest in yourself. So if I had to go back and kick myself when I was 20 I would definitely say, go to that happy hour, or networking event and really start making those connections. As I progressed in my career and changed roles, I've built relationships with the people I worked around, and I've always been able to go back to them and every time I've had the conversations if I was changing a career, or if I needed advice, they were always so happy to provide it. I like to say that to others, as well that if I can help you, or if we've crossed paths, please reach out to me, I'm very open. But yeah, if I had to go back and kick myself at 20, I would definitely say, network, and also spend more time investing in yourself from a certification and training standpoint, because those are the things that people can't take away from you and things that just helped build and bolster your professional profile.
Do you have any final words of advice to offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Do your research and don't try to be everywhere. Like Tic Toc is great, but if you don't have a reason to be on there, please don't. Pick your platform, do your research, and engage meaning you have to be there, you have to be present, you have to engage. I'm very active, like I said on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook every now and again, but you can definitely find me on Twitter. I'm happy to answer any questions, happy to welcome into any communities I'm a part of, I'm also open to introductions into new ones as well. I think providing value, engage with communities you pick, and also taking part in more of what profiles you're sticking with is crucial. I think if you have a presence, be present on that channel and it'll make itself out and I think there'll be a lot of value in the long run for you.
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