What I learned once I moved AWAY from Los Angeles...
It is said that business is founded upon relationships. It’s not about what you know, it’s about WHO you know. I didn’t really understand this until recently. Growing up in Southern California, I was conditioned by a narcissistic culture that placed the highest value on personal gain and success. In Los Angeles, it’s all about, “What can you do for me?” Instead of, “What can I do for you?” And this really turned me off. I didn’t feel like interning for a couple years just to work my way up the food chain. I wasn’t interested in sucking anybody off. I felt like I was more valuable than that, and I was looking for deeper personal connections. It wasn’t until I moved away from Los Angeles that I learned that people are actually really nice and giving. It’s quite lovely and refreshing. Here are some tips on making connections, networking, and building long-lasting, valuable relationships.
I’m going to start with this because this is the most important rule of building relationships. Oftentimes, people rush to ask for help – they only want to connect with you because they think you can do something for them. When I first moved to Port Townsend, I got connected pretty quickly. In just a few weeks, I met all the most important people in the city. Here’s how I did it:
First, I rebranded myself as a small-biz marketing company focusing on digital marketing channel maintenance like Social Media, Blogging, E-mail marketing, Web, and Video in order to appeal to small businesses in general. This was right when people were beginning to understand the value of social media and e-mail marketing, so people knew these were valuable tools for their business. But since most of the business owners were older, they weren’t necessarily on Facebook or sending e-mail blasts. I had no intentions of maintaining small businesses' social media for a monthly fee, but I knew I could provide valuable information from what I learned from the social media and e-mail campaigns for my film SHARP. So I shot a quick promo video for my new brand explaining the value of these services – check it out...
Then one night, I set up at Sirens(the popular bar in town) with a pitcher of beer and my laptop, and basically e-mail blasted every single business in town, big and small (about 200). I personalized every e-mail, so it took a long time. In the e-mail, I simply introduced myself, explained that I was new in town, trying to get my business going, shared the video, and offered to take them out to lunch for a free marketing consultation. Most people didn’t even reply, but I was surprised to get about 40/200 responses – either “not interested,” or “tell me more,” or “I’m available this week.” These 40 responses resulted in 15-20 meetings at coffee shops and restaurants, where I did very simple and quick marketing consultations, shared some valuable info specific to their business, gave my advice, and offered to help in any way I could.
Most of the meetings I set didn’t amount to anything. But I remember on one specific day, I had 2 appointments set, I piggy-backed one to make a 3rd appointment, and made some serious connections that generated about $6,000 in video work. Just from a few meetings set from cold e-mails.
A lot of other magical things resulted as well…
I got to screen my film for FREE at the local co-op working space (another huge brand-booster for me). I got a bunch of free massages from a client. Most of the people I took out for lunch ended up taking ME out to lunch instead. One consultation led a lady to reconsidering her ENTIRE LIFE because I made her realize that her business was not aligned with her own personal passions and dreams. The meetings also led to further referrals. And I met some very dear friends that I may keep for the rest of my life! Who knows what is still to come as a result of the connections I made in this small town??? Port Townsend – I know I don’t say it much, but I really do love you.
While I was making SHARP, I had the privilege of interviewing the MASTER of gift-giving and one of the top Cutco reps of all time, John Ruhlin. He was in town because we were supposed to shoot a small cameo with him, but L.A. traffic was not helpful that day. John says that in every major meeting he’s in, he’ll thank the CEO for their time by giving a $200 gift (usually branded Cutco) WITHOUT expecting anything in return – simply to thank them for their time. SUPER POWERFUL!
Make a meaningful connection or impression by constantly adding value. “Hey, I thought you might like this blog post I did recently.” OR "Per our conversation, I researched network marketing for you and found this article." I’ve even bought books for potential clients on video/film topics they asked me about.
Pursue Those You Truly Connection With
The most valuable connections you can make are those with whom you feel you have a real connection, you vibe on the same wavelength. Meeting someone like this is rare (at least for me). So when it comes, snatch it up! Instant friends like this can do much more for you than a stranger you just met.
Dude – relationships don’t form overnight. Most people trying to make connections (especially in the film industry) want something immediately when they first meet you. It’s more about “what can you do for me?” Rather than, “what can I do for you?” Valuable relationships start with trust. To build trust, you must be honest and open, and it sometimes takes years to be let in.
Follow up with them. Follow up with them again. Not as if you want something from them YET. Just continue to add value, make a connection, remind them that you exist. Three value adds for every call to action, meaning… Reach out or offer something of value three times before you ask for something in return.
Every connection begins with rapport. Building rapport is an art unto itself. But the most basic way to build good rapport is to ask questions. Get a sense of who they are. My favorite question to ask is “WHY?” I love to know why people choose their specific line of work, it tells you a lot about them, and it often gets them thinking because many people actually don’t know why they chose that line of work. I also hate the question, “What do you do?” Our culture is conditioned to base identity on work/job/career. You can get to know a lot more about somebody and also gain instant respect by asking, “What occupies most of your time?” And don’t keep the conversation one sided – chime in with your reactions, “Oh yeah, I’m the same exact way!” Direct the volley of conversation.
Make Them Feel AWESOME
I had the unique opportunity to listen to Maya Angelou speak at a special event at Chapman University before she died. A brilliant woman, Maya once said that people will never remember what you said, but never forget how you made them feel. A few years back, while working as the Video Marketing Director for Vector Marketing, I had the opportunity to interview the top rep in Cutco at the time – he had just finished a $30K PUSH for KOC or something CRAZY like that, and he was already well on his way to selling $300,000 that year, something that had never been done before in the history of the company. Just by his attitude and the way he smiled, I knew I’d like this guy. Before I interviewed him, I noticed that he was wearing a tie with little snails on it. I LOVE snails – in fact, one of my very first short films in high school was about a snail named Melvin – it won me my second Student Emmy. I thought it was so funny and awesome that I complimented him on it when I introduced myself. A year later after he broke the record and sold $297,000, I saw him again at another conference and we hung out because I made a long-lasting impression. "The #1 skill of influencers is the sincere effort to make a person feel that he or she is the most important person in the world," as my good friend Hal Elrod says. Hal is a master of making connections because of his unselfish habit of giving and making people feel awesome. He does it to me all the time and IT WORKS! Hehe.
Business Cards ≠ Baseball Cards
Most networking goes like this: “Here’s my business card.” I feel like people do it just because it makes them look cool, and because everybody else is doing it. Once I went to an event where someone introduced me to a colleague of theirs who sold clothes – WOMEN's clothes – and the first thing she did without saying a word to me was give me her business card. “Cool, thanks…. What do I do with this?” Yes, it is helpful to have somebody’s contact information. But don’t just trade business cards unless it’s someone you really connect with, or it’s someone in your line of work. And don’t just collect them like baseball cards! When you receive a business card, DO something with it instead of filing it away in your box o’ business cards or your fancy protected plastic business card pocket folder. Send a simple follow up e-mail to thank them for their time and offer something of value, “I thought you might like this blog post I just did.” Being a video marketer is the best because all I have to do is send them a cool video that I made – video in an introductory e-mail increases the click through and interaction by 200%-300% (The Forrester Marketing group survey 2010).
When the universe presents you with an opportunity, take immediate action, strike while the iron is hot! Massive immediate action leads to longterm results. I was recently interviewed for Chapman Magazine (circulating to over 30,000 of some of the wealthiest and most successful people in the country, Chapman Alumni) because when the opportunity presented itself to network with Chapman University’s President Doti, I acted immediately. While visiting the Chapman campus(my alma mater) this last summer just for fun and nostalgia, I stumbled upon an event they were having, where Pres. Doti was introducing himself to everybody. I introduced myself as an alumni, then stuck around to see what the event might be about. Then I suddenly realized – I have SHARP DVDs in my car! I should give him one! So I ran to my car, grabbed a DVD, ran back, and went right up to his table. “Hey Pres. Doti,” I said. “I’m Nick, we just met a few minutes ago, I just wanted to share with you the film I made right after I graduated from Dodge [College of Film and Media Arts, Chapman’s film school]. It was made by a bunch of Chapman alumni, it’s about sales, I think you’d like it.” (He is a master of fundraising, raising millions upon millions from donors for one of the most expensive private schools in the world, so I figured he had an interest in sales). He thanked me sincerely. But the editor of Chapman Magazine just happened to be sitting right next to him and snatched up the DVD immediately! “Do you mind if I interview you for the Chapman Magazine?” NO! I WOULD HATE TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR CHAPMAN MAGAZINE! GET AWAY FROM ME!
If you are pressed for time or you want to make a really strong impression, you can use N.L.P. (neuro-linguistic programming) to build INSTANT rapport and trust by a process called “mirroring.” N.L.P. is a communication system that Tony Robbins studied and teaches. Mimicking is a tactic by which you mimic one’s mannerisms, posture, speech, tone, and even attitude. By mimicking your subject, they subconsciously think you are like them and trust is created instantly. Please be careful with N.L.P. and only use it for good – it is very powerful. I’ve consciously used mimicking about ten times, and it’s incredible how effective it is. I’ll literally cross my legs as they cross their legs, rest my elbow on the table a few moments after they do, react to what they're saying in the same tone. From an outside perspective, it might seem like you're mocking them, but the subject never notices – it’s completely subconscious. Try it. Ninja status.
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