Tag: small business marketing coach

Written Appreciation

Written appreciation, when sincere, is powerful.

Though great for quickly communicating with people anywhere in the world, emails and even texting sorely lack the in-person aspects of communication that have become so vital to how the human species shares ideas and opinions. This simple absence is enough to make even the most harmless email appear aggressive, even if it’s sent with the full intention of serving as a “thank you”. Because of this, it’s up to you, the sender, to make sure your texts always seem genuine and always get the message across correctly.  Written appreciation, as long as it’s sincere, is often the most valued and most memorable form of appreciation.

Grammatical Errors

Thank you’s mean more if you include the person’s name. It’s a quick, simple flourish that really sets the tone to be more intimate and personal than some generalized message not denoted to be for anyone specific. This is why it’s so important to triple check that the name is spelled correctly. A misspelled name, instead of promoting intimacy, puts the reader on the defensive since you clearly aren’t courteous enough to respect a name they’ve had since birth. This goes for all other words in the message. Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation are absolutely important for a message that you want an individual to take seriously. Let these mistake slip through, and they’ll take the thank you as callous and insincere.

Generalizations

Don’t write to the individual thanking them for the “lovely gift” or the “time spent” with them. Thank them for what they did for you specifically. Name the gift and expand on what they did with you during the time you had together. These specifics work to not only make the note more enjoyable but reminds the receiver of who you are and the good times you had together. In short, it inspires comradery should they not immediately remember what happened. This then translates into positive feelings that are now associated with both you and the note. It helps you set a tone without being able to do so physically, and that is your greatest hurdle with emails and texts.

5 Ways to Communicate Appreciation in Networking

How to truly show appreciation to colleagues and clients

Appreciation in business when you’re a solopreneur

Length

No, longer thank you’s messages are not inherently better than shorter thank you’s. In fact, the longer versions are often skimmed over and ignored immediately after.  When it comes to written appreciation, brief and sincere is most valued.

Remember, this is not a day and age where letter writing is a way to pass the time. This is a time period where time is everything. The longer something is, the less engaging it tends to be. In addition, you are not a trained writer. Your long notes will not be beautifully crafted diatribes that evoke tears. They’ll be awkward and end up repeating the same idea ten times over but with slightly different language.

Stick to what you know. Be concise. Thank them for exactly what you want to thank them for. Throw in a hope for the future. Wish them success. Be on your way. They’ll feel much more special that you both took the time to send such a message while still respecting their time.

Timing

As a rule of thumb, send your thank you text or email within 24 hours to 48 hours after an event, the gift or the meeting.  Yet, do know that a sincere thank you is appreciated anytime it’s received regardless if it’s even a month later.

Customer appreciation gives business owners the advantage

The burden of timely thank you

The human side of your brand is the most costly

Personal

People do business with people. The more personal a note is the more genuine and valued it is.  That doesn’t mean getting into personal or inappropriate stories – remember, the note (or email) is about them (what they did, specifically and what it meant to you).  A thank you note is not an additional sales piece or a chance for you to promote yourself.  The only kind of promotion that you might put in a thank you note is business card and this is really more from a standpoint of reminding them who you are or how they know you.  This is not a time to ask for referrals or even to ask for their business.  This is about sincere appreciation and not about any ulterior motives.

3 Practices That Elevate You as a Leader in Intelligent Connections

This past week I participated in a Community Manager Hangout and enjoyed learning more from fellow community developers.  It was a learning moment along with lots of affirmation of practices that I myself actually do along with practices that I train/coach others on. As I listened to the other panelists, I kept wondering why the title they’ve been given for their profession is community “manager”. After all, a community is created of individual people.  And, for a long time, I’ve tried to live a life engaged with others with this thought in mind, “Manage Things; Lead People”. 

This amazing group of individuals don’t just “manage” their community – they lead, nurture, care, feed, encourage, inspire and motivate their community members.  Why chance managing people and leaving them to feel like numbers, unimportant and mere statistics to a business?  A beautiful practice that was mentioned on the Hangout to increase their own creativity in their own community development was to continually people watch.  In dealing with online relationships, it’s easy to forget some of the basics in human interaction.  After all, you’re dealing with a realm that interacts at the speed of thought, the anonymity of behind the screen conversations and first interactions that are often complaints and concerns.  When you engage in watching people interactions in the offline world, it helps remind you of some of the nuances in relationship building that are second nature for us in face-to-face interactions but not easily read or shared in keyboard interactions.

As you strive to make more intelligent connections, along with people watching, here are some great articles to help you focus on using your online and offline resources to strengthen and build relationships:

Here are three practices to implement immediately to strengthen your connections:

  1. Know Your S.O.A.R.

We often hear of the S.W.O.T. analysis in business.  SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  While this is widely used as a way to assess many business situations, I prefer, when you’re making connections, to not give life to the negative.  Sometimes when you look for the threat you often find it or even inadvertently develop the circumstances that create it.

I, personally, focus on a S.O.A.R. analysis.  SOAR stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.

It’s imperative that you know your Strengths. This is your unique promise of value that you alone deliver to each and every situation and interaction.  It doesn’t matter the environment – that’s your strength area and deliverable.

Then, it’s also your job to know and seek your Opportunities.  What’s available to you now? What current networks are you already involved in? What connections do you already have that might need to be developed?

Aspirations are your goals. They are what you want to accomplish coupled with the “why” you want to accomplish them.

And what Results do you want? What’s the end game? What’s the definition of success for you and how will you know you’ve achieved it?

I could go on but my colleague, Peter Sterlacci, does an excellent job covering the topic completely and here’s another article that also focuses on your S.O.A.R.

For you to make the best and strongest connections, ever, you will need to S.O.A.R. first.

  1.  Empower others and build community with them

When you empower and encourage others, their sense of belonging to a community and being a valued member increases.  I’m not asking you to be a community developer, but I am recommending that you act as a community developer.

If you are the hub of information, resources and support, you become a valuable resource and ally to others.  Understand that being that hub must come from a place of sincerity and if it doesn’t then it will be the opposite of empowering and actually demotivating to others.

How can you empower others?

  1. Let go of the reins and let them steer, provide input and feedback.
  2. Encourage opportunities for sharing thoughts and ideas.
  3. Listen actively. This means listening for feeling and not just the words.  The best advice I ever received from someone about communicating in text mode is to:

Read first for the words and the content; Read second for the feeling and the context. (tweet this!)

  1. Know when your own personal idiosyncrasies or frames of reference might be getting in the way of you fully providing credence to someone’s thoughts.
  2. Be coherent to your own values.  Consistency is often thrown around as something you want to be (I’ve used it myself).  Yet, I recently learned that being coherent allows you to adjust and grow while still utilizing your values as a guidepost and the very essence of who you are. They are still your non-negotiables but they are not stagnant.

Here’s where I heard about brand coherence and a few other great lessons:

  1.  Loyalty matters and goes both ways

It does. Stephen Covey said it well in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, when he said “retain the loyalty of those people in the room by not speaking ill of those people outside of the room.”

You solidify trust when someone has the opportunity to sample your character and competence and they see coherent behavior.  They develop an affinity for you when they see the sum of all your attributes is congruent with what you say.  Reputation is currency these days and it’s that currency that will finance third party endorsements and positive word of mouth.

If interactions do not feel personalized, then people will not take you personally to their personal circle of influence or provide their personal recommendations.

I extend this thought as you take online relationships and turn them to offline meetings. During the Hangout, I mentioned going to conferences for the sake of the “hallway conversations”.  Those hallway interactions are far more valuable than the content inside the meeting rooms. While I do value the training, if my purpose for going to an event/conference is to network.  Then, it’s my work to reach out to the people and relationships that I want to develop further.

It’s easy to be distracted by the celebrity hype at some of these events.  A huge name makes an appearance, a star/guru imparts amazing wisdom on us and there’s a book signing to boot! Remember, that the true value is in the relationships that you form and strengthen during the event.  The value is not in those one off selfies of you and the “star”.  It’s the selfies of you and the person who’s been your online supporter for the last three years (Gary J. Nix); or the person who created a loyalty program for your chat that’s become a foundation of your twitterchat (Gerald Moczynski, I’m In Stitches LLC); or the person that selflessly connects you with others and is a bright morning smile each and every day you jump online (Brandie McCallum).

Quick Tip: When going to a conference or face to face event, don’t just go “hoping” to meet people.  Go with a plan and be strategic.

  1. Invite people that are already in your online circle who may be going or be from the area to meet AFK (away from the keyboard).
  2. Look to see who the speakers, authors, presenters are and make a “hit list” of who you would like to meet and develop a relationship with further.  These people can be great allies along with provide cutting edge information since they are keeping a finger on the pulse of your industry.
  3. Look for the conference organizing staff’s names and other industry leaders and make it a point to be in those sessions, lunches, meetings, break times with them to develop at first awareness of who you are and then listen intently as you learn and develop relationship.

I made this video for a specific online networking group, but the practice I outline in it can apply to any face-to-face event.  Alignable Members Tutorial:  An Easy Way to Make the Most of Your Alignable Membership

I would appreciate hearing your own stories of how you take the lead in your own relationship and connection development. Please share them in the comments section!

Meaningful Mentions for Meaningful Attention

Twitter has kept true to its 140 character feature, which places the burden of creativity on the user. Hashtags and tweet chats have only brought more appeal to the social site, and now more than ever, business entrepreneurs, executives, and organizations are taking note and utilizing Twitter.

Twitter used correctly is a creative way for you to personally connect with people that you wouldn’t otherwise have a direct connection with. It’s also a great tool to build relationships with acquaintances.
You can reach company presidents, organization leaders and influencers in your industry in a way that establishes rapport and a chance for them to get to know you. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Enter into true conversations with people on Twitter, and you can develop know, like and trust with them.

Create Conversation

When commenting on valuable content that has been tweeted, posted, or otherwise written, be sure that your comment is thorough and self-explanatory. What made it valuable to your specific area of expertise? Don’t just recommend it; provide a reason why it is your recommendation.

When re-tweeting, expand your material by adding in valuable commentary that can be linked back to you. Re-tweets are often limited to simply saying “what they said,” yet if your strategy on Twitter is to deepen relationships then it’s important to include why that tweet or information mattered to you. It gives the thousands of people eavesdropping on the conversation the opportunity to sample your character and competence. It also gives a start to a meaningful conversation with the person you retweeted.

Think of what you would do away from the keyboard? Would you just say “ditto” or “what s/he said” every single time you quoted someone or found someone’s information or insights interesting?

As a helpful hint, when acknowledging an article, mention the author as well (using their twitter account). This is far more likely to get the author’s attention than simply mentioning or linking to their article.

Communication is the Foundation of all Relationships

With Twitter, you have the ability to engage in real time, quality conversation with existing and potential customers, referral sources and employers. It’s a great place to showcase that you’re a great listener and that you’re attentive.

Twitter is the perfect way to provide information that is mutually beneficial to both you and those you want to connect with. Deviating from the usual “self-promoting” material, an individual that gives its followers links, resources, and information that helps them in their every day journey is more likely to be viewed as a reliable and credible source of information than someone that doesn’t do the same.

What about Hashtags and Twitter Chats?

Hashtags are great tools to focus your conversation to a particular subject, industry or even group of people. Let’s be clear that this needs to be done purposefully. Merely hashtagging for attention can be detrimental to building relationships. Now that we can “mute” people on Twitter, those merely blabbering for attention as opposed to sharing something meaningful (to them or to their connection) will be the first ones silenced.
Remember, before you jump in, what is your message and what’s the specific group (or people) that you would like to reach/connect with.

Twitter chats are a great place to make connections. Research ongoing and upcoming chats to see which topics and which chat participants make sense for you spend time in. When you’ve done that homework up front, it makes your Twitter chat experience more productive and can build relationships, friendships, referral sources and even partners.

My Personal Twitter Story

In 2008, I jumped into Twitter to learn more about the platform. I quickly found #journchat (a chat of journalists and editors from around the world). My purpose, at that time, was to get to know these journalists so that I could submit press releases to them for my clients. It was in #journchat that I met Sarah Evans and Peter Shankman. I learned from their public relationships tips, found great value in learning of and signing up for Peter’s HARO (Help a Report Out) daily email blast of story and interview opportunities. The great value in the conversations, connections and resources (plus, the heads-up on who to avoid) were priceless knowledge that I, alone, would never have had access to.

It was 11 months later that I decided to create my own Twitter chat, #brandchat. The focus of #journchat was great but it did not fulfill my interest and focus on brands, marketing and my passion for learning and working with entrepreneurs who started a business on their personal brand and then evolved it into a company brand. It was shaky at first and there were more than a couple of times I wondered “am I just talking to myself?” We waffled between conversing about personal brands and company brands. It wasn’t until I became dedicated to the fact that #brandchat would focus on the company brands and the people who make up those brands that the chat started to grow.

Fast forward to now, we’ve been chatting weekly for five years strong! If it wasn’t for Twitter chats, I would not have met (away from the keyboard)  Sarah Evans at the PubCon conference (she gave me a book and addressed it to a fellow Twitter chat queen!); or Gary Nix (brandchat’s moderator and chief brandarchist); or Brandie McCallum (the connection queen) or Sam Fiorella (an amazing brand sensei), or Emily Crume (Social Media Examiner) or Debbie Miller (Social Hospitality) at the NMX Conference; or Monica Wright (MarketingLand), Amy Vernon (#SMEtiquette)  and Kevin Mullett (Cirrus ABS) at the SMX Conference.

Being able to meet and chat with people you want to know or aspire to connect with, and to know that they will respond to a tweet or email that I send, is exactly what Twitter as a launchpad could mean to your connectability.

One of my favorite quotes – “It’s not who you know or what you know – it’s who knows you, well.”

If you’re thinking about launching a Twitter chat, I can help.

I’ve added some of my best tips on my YouTube Channel. 

twitterchats

Your Brand is Built By Association

Smart Money magazine’s September issue shared a fantastic fact published by Careerbuilder.com.  It stated that 63% of hiring managers did not hire a candidate because of what appeared on a social website.  They were not referring to a blog the candidate wrote, not even a You Tube video or a publicized chat gone badly.  They were referring to pictures and comments posted about the candidate from someone they knew – like a son or daughter, friend, cousin, mom, sister or brother.

Comments like: “she always lies”; “I can’t believe he got the whole meal paid by his company”; “she drinks too much”; “he cheats at everything”; “my mom was wasted last night and drove home”; and “he just brings supplies home” have deterred hiring professionals from ever contacting the candidate.  The study also included negative feedback from fraternity or sorority parties found on the web, to fishing trip photos and personal videos online.

Believe it or not people are “searching” you on-line when they first meet you.  They’re seeing what comes up whether it’s you or not and whether you posted it or not.  It’s online “identity theft” of a different sort and the time to start managing it is now.

Personal Brand Association

It was almost ten years ago when Tom Peters wrote the article, A Brand Called You.

Before then and still, even in some circles, branding is seen as something only for large corporations, companies and products.  And, that’s a myth.  Organizations and professionals understand the importance of reputation management and the ability to differentiate themselves from others.  I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “it’s not what you know, it is who you know”.  Let me take that one further, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and who knows you WELL.”  Whether it’s companies, organizations or for profits, people become involved because of other people.

Being built by association happens online and offline.  Managing your own brand means managing, how people describe you when they introduce you face to face and monitoring what’s being said about you in cyberspace.

So, first let’s start with your online brand management.  Take the time to “Google” yourself right now.  Put your name in quotes, (i.e. “John Smith”) in the Google search bar.  Check out what comes up.  Is it you?  Other forms of you?  Or, someone totally different?  Look not only at website – checkout images, too.

Next, sign up for “Google Alerts”.  It’s a free on-line service that will email you every time your name is used on the web.  You want to know when your name appears anywhere on the web immediately.  You can then actively deal with it and lower its ranking on the Google search.

Most of the time, the first three pages of a Google search are the ones most often read.  After the first three pages, interest wanes in searching the person further.  Your job is to make sure that the first three pages are the real you and that you “push further down the list” anyone or anything else listed about you.

There are several ways to do that.  You can hire a service to clean up or restore your on-line reputation such as reputationdefender.com or defendmyname.com yet if you set up a time, for example once a week, you can do it yourself.

Here’s how to do that.  First, create a blog.  There are many blog sites that are free to nominal cost to use.  The one I highly recommend is wordpress.  It’s easy to navigate and there’s no software to download.  Each blog post is seen as a page on the web.  The more pages that appear with your name on it the more the search engines pick up your name and the higher you list on Google.

What would you blog about?  What is of most interest to you that you value and are passionate about?  If your seeking place in the world of work, then write about what you’re good at, ask questions online and post information and answers shared from others, even posting conversations and interviews that you have with mentors or potential employers will get you far in both the digital and analog world.

Post comments on other blogs, too.  Find some that are of interest to you and your area of expertise and subscribe to the RSS feed so that you’ll stay in the know of what are the most up to date conversations.  Cocomment.com is a useful tool that automatically tracks your on-line footsteps and provided reciprocal links between your blog, those you like to comment on and those who like to comment on your blog.  Make sure you respond with your real name so that when you name is searched these are the type of comments that will appear.  If you’ll set aside a certain time to do this, you’ll see that you’ll start doing this consistently and make a significant impact to your online identity.  For example, I post on one blog every night.  I know that I will read something online every night so it’s a part of my routine to post a comment on one when I’m reading.

Review books on amazon.com.  Again, utilize your real name. Review only books that are of interest to you such as self improvement, cooking, design or comedy.  Those associations with books that are consider providing expertise in a field that your interested will associate you with the good reputation of those publications.

From Online to Offline Connections

Offline is a little bit different because you have to show up and can’t just post to develop your brand face to face.

First, I recommend that you look at who you know already.  Most people think that in order to develop and get their brand known by others that they need to immediately begin “gripping, grinning and grazing”.  When I’m coaching a client, my first response is to not go meet new people until we take care of who we already know.

I call this the database cull.  It’s looking through and making sure all the information that you possess on someone is accurate and up to date. From email to phone number and addresses, spend the time gathering information on who you are already “in the know” with.

Secondly, look at what you know about each of them.  Do you know where they spend their free time?  Do you know where they work?  Who they know? Where they spend their free time?  Wayne Baker, in his pivotal book, Achieving Success Through Social Capital, found that each person knows about 250 other people.  Knowing this, when you know more information about someone you know who they know and who they influence.  When you’re out there looking for assistance on a project or seeking employment, doesn’t it make sense to be introduced by someone that person you want to meet already knows, someone they trust?

Borrowing From Another’s Credibility

I like to start my connection with people much higher up by borrowing from the credibility and the reputation of the other person.  It saves time and yields better return.

The only caveat is that people will not introduce you to people who know, like and trust them unless they have “know, like and trust with you”.  In order for them to have that with you, they must sample your character and competence.  And, in order for them to do that you must know what makes you so unique.  You must know what your vision is?  What you value?  What your purpose is? And, what you’re passionate about.

In order, to move a relationship from merely visibility to credibility and then eventually to profitability you must know what makes you stand out and is your unique talent.  That is where the branding process is extremely key because extracting what is authentically you will help you know what makes you unique.

Have you ever seen those long and lavish mission statements on a plaque of the corporate wall?  Or, inscribed on a company’s stationery?  Other popular places are on the back of business cards, on websites, brochures, and annual reports.  Yet, it’s the person who is “belly to belly” with the customer that is that company.  It’s not the corporate crafted mission statement that defines that company’s image.  It is the stock clerk, the teller, the barista, the ticket taker and the sales representative who has direct contact with their clients.  Even in the non-profit world, many will become involved for the cause, yet the majority become involved because of a person – either someone they know, someone affected or a special someone who asked for their help.

And, as organizations are built by association, so are you.  I believe that having great command of the “rules of engagement” and a good understanding your core value will help you put together a brand communication plan that engages others.

No Fail : Own Your Connections

Your connections begin in your own database.  When I’m asked about how to “own your game”, or dominate your niche, the first place I begin asking about is what do you know about your database?

Even those born within this last minute, already have a handful of people in their personal database.  From the mother that carried them, to the physician that delivered them, to the nurses in the delivery room, the pediatrician and the nurses in the nursery – the newborn even know somebody!

How can you make the most of who you are already connected to?

First, clean your list.  Start going through to see whose email, phone number, cell phone, address, and employment information is up-to-date and who is not.  Your first focus is to make sure you have the most current, effective information for those people who already know you.

Second, grade your list.  No, I’m not talking about judging people yet I am talking about categorizing them in a way that makes sense for you.  Who really knows you well?  I mean they have spoken positively on your behalf, they know your hopes, dreams and aspirations.  They may even know the good, the bad and the ugly!  They know you.  They know what you do for a living.  How many close contacts can actually say that?  Often we’re connected with those who “kind of, sort of” know what we do so they could never repeat it to anyone or effectively explain it or even speak to a prospective employer or prospect about how you can help them.

Start first with those who really know you well.  And, then work through your list seeing who you really know.  Again, use the same criteria.- do you know their hopes, dreams and aspirations?  Do you know their strengths?  Do you know what they really do for a living (not just their title)?

Third, of those who really know you – what gaps do you see in the information you have on them?  Maybe you don’t even know if they’re currently married, divorced or single.  Maybe you don’t know where they graduated from?  Or, you might have their work number yet you don’t have their email address or cell phone number.  Focus on where you have gaps and make a plan on garnering some of that information.  It might be that you’ll find out at the next ball game or happy hour get together.  Whenever it is, make sure that you flow your information gathering into the conversation and not sound like you’re going through a checklist.  To do so, would surely shut down conversation.

Lastly, who on that list really supports you?  They have been “your brand advocate” all along.  They cheer you on and sing your praises!  Do any of them fall in the following categories?

  • People who have mentored you?
  • People you have mentored or taught?
  • Former managers, supervisors or instructors?
  • And, yes, even co-workers?

These are the foundation of your brand advocates and you must identify them first to own your connections.

Meet the Dean of Innovation – Jeff DeGraff

Too many people who should never be out of work are out of work.  What if you treat yourself and your personal brand like a business? What if you were a business with shareholders, a board of directors and budgets?  How would you operate differently?  Or, as Jeff DeGraff posed, “how would you differentiate who you are?”

Your personal brand is what makes you unique so of course, I enjoyed every moment of the interview/conversation with Jeff.   He’s enthusiastic about how rapidly the world, the employment, communication and engagement environment changes.  His newest book, Innovation YOU, focuses on how personal brands can use a four-step process to becoming “new and improved”.

First, according to DeGraff, you must rethink innovation.  See it as a bridge you walkover.  Instead, we tend to “hang out” with people who are similar.  Innovation requires deviation.  In innovation you run experiments, diversified experiments that are small with low risks, quite like venture capitalists often do.

Then we need to revise our approach.  We all have a dominant logic and often that taints the window with which we see the world.  Through that lens, we will never see some of the things we need to, to get a different perspective.

DeGraff outlines four things to break that:

1.  Have high quality targets. Seek out people who are “deep domain masters” which he defines as people who have spent their life learning their trade.

2.  Focus on being active.  If you operate in reactive mode, you’ll be a victim of the universe. Seek out opportunities for constructive conflict.  Look for people who have an expertise in an area yet a deep difference in the way they think from your or others you connect with yet have the genuine spirit and focus to do something and create something constructive.

3. Take multiple shots at a goal. The classic mistake is for people to gather too much data.  The information gathering phase is often a form of resistance of its own.  They delay doing something because they’re “still collecting” information.  Most people don’t make room in their life for variation.

Innovation is not an amateur sport.

4. Learn what works.  Actively do after action reviews.  Likening it to walking up a mountain, he shared that as you get smarter you cover as much ground yet ascend more.

Maria: What’s the greatest challenge you see personal brands encounter?

Jeff:  People don’t like change. And, that’s because change is moving away from something. People don’t like to leave something.  Innovation is not change.  Innovation is moving towards something.

Personal brands must undertake the arduous task of discovering what is unique about them.  What is their deep domain experience? Where are they in the learning process?

Often you can tell where someone is at, by just looking at their business card.  If you can’t tell what they do from their business card, then they don’t know.

To discover your uniqueness, ask yourself these questions:

1. What gives you energy? What takes your energy?

2. What are you really good at? What are you really not?

3. What are you pulled towards?

4. What is it about you that you are masterful at?

Digging even deeper, DeGraff poses these questions:

1.  Is it valuable?

2.  Is it rare?

3.  What is it about you that is difficult to imitate?

4.  Are you organized to take advantage of the first three questions?

I had the great opportunity of connecting with Jeff for this interview which was originally published in the Personal Branding Magazine.