August 28, 2011

Appreciation Marketing – Informational Interviews


A few weeks ago I attended a meeting where the speaker discussed informational interviews.  When you ask someone for an interview to gather information regarding their company or industry or how they reached their status in business, you are asking for an informational interview.

So what do informational interviews and appreciation marketing have in common?  When you request an informational interview, you are asking for someone to share information with you.  We have discussed before that information is power, but it is up to you to use that power.  This type of interview is no different; accept the knowledge and the power that goes with it.

Asking for an informational interview is asking someone to share their thoughts, their beliefs, and some facts with you.  Come prepared to ask questions that are based on solid research on your part.  Do not fail to do your home work on the person that you are meeting, their company, and their background.  This interview is a chance to learn; make sure that you do so.  The internet is your best friend in this research.

If the company is your point of interest, you need to learn about its culture, its history, the industry, and how your source fits into the organization.  You may want to ask your source to recommend and help you obtain additional sources of information.  You may also want your source to recommend others in the company, or outside of it, to research the industry itself.

If you are seeking information about the person whom you are interviewing, ask questions that allow you to learn what follow up questions you should ask; then build on those opportunities.  When you put someone in the position of an expert, you are flattering them greatly; make the interview meaningful, and appreciate their time.

Try to make it a mutually beneficial event.  It also can benefit the person providing the information, if you can bring something to the meeting other than questions.  That may simply be your interest in the meeting subject or your research that you did prior to meeting.  Share that information and see if that encourages further conversation.

Sometimes you may be able to offer something that may benefit your source.  Don’t try to hard to provide something; let it flow easily from the interview discussion.  Also, don’t use the interview as a job interview for yourself.  If there is a possibility of that result, it will happen, and will benefit everyone.  You have paved the way for this by your research and meaningful questions.

Do not be surprised if your source asks you questions about yourself, your aspirations, and your background.  Let the information flow as easily as you would want it to come to you.  Be truthful, concise, and forthcoming.  You never know where these discussions may lead.  Lead with your intent to obtain information, and you may find out more than you dreamed.

Never treat an informational interview as less important than a job interview.  Dress accordingly, be on time with your researched questions, don’t waste your source’s time, and follow up with a polite thank you card.  If you can assist your source with a referral or information later, do it.  If you have answers to inquiries from your source, provide them.

Informational interviews may be two way examples of appreciation marketing.  How do you feel about this?  Your comments here, or in emails at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or in calls at 360-314-8691 are very important to me and provide subjects for future postings.  Thank you for your input and opinions.  Want an informational interview?  Call me.

August 21, 2011

Appreciation Marketing – Starting a Conversation at a Networking Event


Previously we discussed Bob Burg’s book, “Endless Referrals”.  I consider this to be a great book for anybody who wants to increase their sphere of clients, prospects, friends, and relationships.  From start to finish he covers all manner of networking.  Building relationships is the route to success, and Bob Burg details how to do it.

You should attend networking events, whether they are meetings specifically for networking or are general meetings for business people to attend (luncheons, seminars, whatever).  Every business meeting is a networking opportunity, and all attendees should understand that these are opportunities for networking and building relationships.

At a meeting specifically promoted as a networking meeting, starting conversations should be easy.  After all, everyone should expect that networking is one of the reasons that they are there.  Starting a conversation with people at different type of meetings might be more difficult, but you can do so at all meetings if you approach them in a non-threatening manner.  It is just that simple.

If you see friends at a meeting, say hello to them and ask how they are.  However, you are there to network with people that you do not know, strangers who are not already your networking partners.  You may be targeting someone who is in attendance, but the main objectives of your efforts should not be people that you already know.  Get out of your comfort zone, and look for people who are new to you.

Some of these people may not be veterans of networking as you are and might be nervous.  Greet and comfort them; make them feel welcome.  Ask their name and what they do.  Exchange business cards and comment on something after looking at their card.  Maybe they don’t know anyone else; after you get acquainted, you can introduce them to someone that you know.

If you learn that they are interested in meeting specific people, you might be able to introduce them to those attendees, or you might be able to refer them to some partners of yours later.  If you cannot refer them to specific people, perhaps you know someone who might be able to help them meet the people for whom they are searching.

Just be yourself, do not try to sell; just establish a beginning to a relationship.  You may be able to start the conversation from their name tag, or they may do so from yours.  Ask them where they are located, or their accent may lead to a discussion.  Maybe you know someone in a similar industry or in another group that they may mention.

No matter what you do, do not start selling your product or company, or even yourself.  Ask them if they would like to get together and get better acquainted at another time, promising to contact them later.  If they offer to set a meeting right away, do so, but don’t push for one; that is what follow up is for.  If you suggest a future meeting, your call will not be a cold call, but a genuine follow up call.

Appreciation Marketing techniques are very applicable in this start to relationships.  Cultivate relationships first, and your will cultivate business partners, clients, and referrals for more prospects.  Meet others, cultivate relationships, always appreciate others, and you will prosper, both in business and personally.

Please leave me your comments and ideas, or you can call me at 360-314-8691, or email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com.  Share some of your experiences with me; we all learn from each other.

August 14, 2011

Appreciation Marketing – Starting a Conversation with a Stranger


After adding last week’s blog posting, I was asked to explain how to start a conversation with a stranger.  For this purpose, a stranger would be anyone whom we meet in the course of our day’s activities but not in the arena of networking events.  These strangers would not be anyone whom we meet at an event where this type of conversations would be expected.

Someone told me that they didn’t know where to go to meet people, and I asked where they went each and everyday.  Do you go shopping, do you buy gas, do you go to the mechanic, and do you go to coffee shops?  These are public places where people are.  When asked why they rob banks, bank robbers say because that’s where the money is.  Go where the people are.

These strangers would be those people whom we meet in coffee shops, on the sidewalk, at a grocery store, across the island at a gasoline station, in line at the office supply store, or anywhere else where we may not be looking for anyone with whom to chat.  They are right in front of us, everyday and everywhere.

So how do you start a conversation with these strangers, without being considered pushy or infringing upon the space or time of others?  First, look for the signs; look for something that you can compliment; look for the signs that the other person may welcome conversation.  Also, look for the signs that they may not welcome interruption.

Are they speaking with someone else, perhaps on the phone (look for the Bluetooth headset on the person who is talking to themselves)?  Are they listening to headphones or writing or working on their laptop?  Is there something that you would like to ask them about: their laptop brand, their dog, their coat, their hat, whatever they might consider special?

I once had a 20 minute conversation on a sidewalk with a man walking 2 dogs.  I have had 2 other conversations with him on subsequent occasions, and I know that his dogs like to be scratched on their heads and spoken to in soft terms.  We have not exchanged names yet, but this is great practice for other conversations.  I have had many chats that are similar.

Do not look upon every stranger as a potential prospect or client.  Just chat with people and get to know them.  Try a smile and a simple hello.  Ask about something that appears to interest them or something that they have.  Maybe you have similar taste in clothes; maybe you own different laptops; maybe you both were stood up by an appointment in the same coffee shop.  Instead of yelling at someone who bumps into your grocery cart, say hello and laugh about it.

You will often meet someone who doesn’t want to chat.  That’s fine; perhaps apologize and move on with a smile.  If you meet them again sometime, be pleasant and see what happens.  Compliment them on something and see if they open up.  Maybe they won’t now, but maybe they will at another time.  Some people don’t warm up to strangers easily; do you?

You will receive the same treatment that you project.  If you are warm, welcoming, and open to strangers’ conversations, you will receive the same treatment in return.  This is karma; you get back what you project, good or bad.  If you are not getting warm receptions to your overtures to converse, look at what you are projecting.

Last week’s blog posting resulted in lots of feedback.  Leave your comments about your thoughts, or email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or call me at 360-314-8691.  I’ll be glad to listen to what you have to say.

August 7, 2011

Appreciation Marketing – Finding Networking Partners


In the past few weeks, we have discussed networking partnerships and how to treat these partners in our lives.  Where do we find these networking partners who mean so much to our mutual success?  How do these networking partners first appear in our lives from nowhere and from everywhere?

Each and every day you meet various people in everything that you do and everywhere that you go.  You meet other people in your business life and in your personal life.  Remember what we have discussed many times: you cannot separate your business and personal lives.  Your contacts will appear in both your business life and your personal life.

Networking partners are no different.  You will find your networking partners in both your personal and your business life.  Don’t even try to separate them.  You will not be able to do so, and the best networking partners will not want you to be able to do so.  The best ones will be proud to be part of your life, totally and completely.

Your networking partners are the people that you meet at networking meetings; they are the people that you meet through the Chamber of Commerce; they are the people that you meet at a business event, at the grocery store, at the bank, at the coffee shop, or at the car repair shop.  You can even meet them on the sidewalk or at the theater.

A partner of mine taught me that anytime people were somewhere then I should be the next person in that room.  Every gathering of any type is a networking opportunity.  Each and every time that you go anywhere, look for opportunities to meet someone new.  Every time that I attend an event or meet someone for a coffee chat, I learn something new.

We just said that every gathering of any type is a networking opportunity.  How about the next time you are in a coffee shop before the person that you are there to meet has arrived?  How about after that person has left?  How about the person behind the counter who serves coffee?  How about the person who delivers supplies to the shop?

Networking partners may arrive in your life anywhere that you are; they may be anyone that you meet.  Just start a conversation with other people and get to know them.  Do not try to sell them anything when you first meet them.  Just get comfortable with them and get to know who they are.  Establish a relationship and go from there.

Once you know who they are, find out what they do, and then see if you may assist each other in being successful in your business and your personal lives.  If you find that you can do business together, great.  If you cannot, can you pass referrals to each other?  Can you recommend events that will help the other person succeed?  Can you offer advice?

Look for networking partners everywhere that you go.  Then, look for ways that you can assist your networking partners to succeed.  Until you try to help someone else, you never know how someone else may benefit from what you know, from whom you know, or from what you might recommend.  The best gift that anyone can give to someone else is something from the heart.

Where do you find your networking partners?  What starts the conversations that result in new networking partnerships?  Let me have your comments, or call me at 360-314-8691, or email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com.  Maybe we have some of the same ideas, but maybe we have new ideas that can help each other.