August 2, 2014

“Networking” may be the most overused term in the business world today…and with social media, the idea of creating a network is often in the hands of amateurs.

Simply accepting anyone and everyone who sends you a friend request on Facebook, LinkedIn etc. is far from the gold standard…and I would like to share some observations (and techniques) I use to establish real “connection” with people…which I know will lead to much richer relationships in your life.

Early in my career, I was featured in a trade magazine in one of those “30 under 30 people to watch” pieces which, on the one hand, I was very proud of; and on the other hand, I was a bit embarrassed…

The piece about me was titled, “Strategic Schmoozer” which to me implies more fluff than substance and that there might be a secret agenda when I met you or added you to my “network.”

So maybe I am even more sensitive to superficial networking than most…and although my motives were pure then (even though the magazine didn’t know it!), they have evolved into something much bigger today which is probably the most rewarding part of my daily life.

Simply put, I love humanity…and I’ve learned that to truly connect with people you must contribute to them first…with no expectation of a “return.”

My post about the concept of “100-0” talked about that at length but there is still more to it…

Ned Hallowell, probably the country’s number one expert on ADHD and a brilliant author of close to 20 books (my favorite is called “Crazy Busy”), sent me a beautiful note in the context of our upcoming “Titans of Direct Response” event.

He was amazed that we could put together the roster of all-star speakers we did and he knew that to do that was no accident.

Ned has been a regular contributor to our newsletters for many years and he has been a frequent guest at our famous “Boardroom Dinners” (which I will do a post about in the future).

From Ned:

“You are a master of what this world needs most, and what has been the cornerstone of all my books: the power of connection. I call it the other Vitamin C, Vitamin Connect, and we live in a world where most people suffer from a deficiency of it. Glued to their electronics, they get massive doses of electronic connection, which in no way imparts the life-enhancing, indeed life-saving power of the true Vitamin Connect.”

Ned went on to make sure I got the most important point:

For [true connection] you need face to face, human connection. SO much comes across in what I call the human moment. You absorb vibes of Vitamin Connect without even knowing it. That’s why you always feel better and more refreshed after a positive encounter…and the beauty of it is that it is free, and infinite in supply.”

Of course I can’t let that brilliance go by without reminding you about “Titans”…and that if you are on the fence about coming, I would be irresponsible if I didn’t say you will regret that decision for many years to come.

Waiting for the DVD’s of the event is an acceptable fallback position but there is nothing like live, human interaction. But I know you know that…

OK…done selling the event …but now back to another important way to get your daily dose of Vitamin Connect even if you are stuck at your computer all day (which Ned calls “screen sucking”).

I just finished sending out over twenty personal e-mails from folks who recently sent me LinkedIn requests…some of the folks I’ve heard of, some were people I’ve met…and some were perfect strangers.

I accumulate my LinkedIn requests over a two or three week period and then I create time in my schedule to go through each one, look at the profile, find an area or two of common interest or a group of people we share, and then I write a personal e-mail acknowledging those synergies to make sure I can get some Vitamin C even while I am …yes…screen sucking.

I mentioned this practice in a previous post but let me expand…

This philosophy needs to be consistent everywhere in your life in how you “contribute to connect” …and I guarantee that you will find this kind of “networking” far more rewarding than the equivalent of just hitting “accept” without finding out more about the people you come in contact with…online, offline, or in line at Starbucks…

Sometimes you can’t be that personal…I get that…remember, I am responsible for the mailing of probably 2 billion pieces of direct mail in my career…and no, I did not have a personal relationship with every one of those people we mailed to…

But what I want to stress is: Don’t be incongruous with your communication…that is, if you are going for a deeper relationship in the long term don’t start with shallow communications at the outset.

You really have to put something special (and personal) into ALL your communications.

And if you start with what you can contribute to the other person first, it always works in terms of getting the maximum amount of Vitamin “C” into your bloodstream…

It’s also about differentiation…do something different to stick out (and not just for the sake of sticking out)–stick out because it really matters to create something extra special with every human you interact with…

Not too long ago I spoke to a group of students—recent college grads and seniors—about careers in direct marketing.

I asked them a series of questions:

-“How many of you send an e-mail follow up after every job interview?”

Just about everyone raised their hand.

-“How many of you actually send a handwritten card or letter or a formal business letter as follow up?”

After I explained how you actually do that…using what I called “pen” and “paper” (and I had visual aids to show them from the podium what each of those items looked like), maybe a third of the room raised their hand…but sadly, I think it was far less than that. I was just happy to see ANY hands.

-“And how many of you looked for areas of common interest with the person interviewing you…an author, a magazine, a subject area…and then in your follow up used that (beyond just mentioning something in an e-mail)? For example, sending a large envelope (I had a visual aid of that too!) with a handwritten note or letter and maybe an article about something you discussed?

Of course no one raised their hand.

To which I “whispered loudly” into my microphone:

“If you do something like THAT, no one else will be doing it…and that’s a good thing…and even if you don’t get the job, you will be remembered which is always better than being forgotten…”

I tell this story because this applies to anyone in business…regarding finding common ground and connecting at more than just a superficial level.

My mentor Marty Edelston taught me the value of “nice notes”…which in a nutshell, says rather than send a Christmas card during Christmas with everyone else, send stuff all year round to the people in your life as the mood hits you…and as stuff comes across your desk that would create connection.

And there is no “humbug” in that statement. Send the cards too if you must…

I think you get the point by now.

These are just suggestions and you can put your own personality and ingenuity into how you contribute and then connect…get your daily dose of Vitamin C(onnect)…and realize that there is nothing all that fulfilling about being a strategic schmoozer…

Closing anecdote: Someone was telling me the other day that when babies look in a mirror for the first time and are able to see the image of themselves, the assumption is that it’s “another baby.”

It takes a while for them to get the idea that the kid in the mirror is really THEM.

How refreshing is that?

And I can’t help thinking of an image of that baby looking in the mirror for the first time and handing over the “keys to the castle” to that other baby to play with…even if it’s just some plastic keys they just finished salivating and slobbering over.

The “keys to the castle” in this case is what the contribution might be to that “other baby” in the mirror…

Maybe I went a little too woo-woo on you this week…but frankly, without a philosophy of contribution first, you also can’t be a great direct response marketer.

“How Life Imitates Direct Marketing” will be title of my first e-book (which I will send to all of you for free if you stay on this list)…and today’s post could be the foreword to the book, don’t you think?

Until next week,


P.S. This post was a little selfish…since to get the most Vitamin C(onnect) from all of you, meeting you in person at “Titans” is the easiest way for me to do that.

Regardless, I will continue to get my weekly dose of Vitamin “C” by writing these posts…and those of you who have written to me with feedback, ideas, complaints (not many of those yet!),  know that I respond to every e-mail and I relish the opportunity to have a more intimate relationship with each of you.

But the best thing would be if you could be here in Stamford, CT in September, of course…

I also just set up a private Facebook Group (yes, Facebook can be used for good and not evil!) for the folks who have registered…and I expect lots of Vitamin “C” there leading up to the event and even more afterwards after we have all spend two glorious days together. I hope you can join us.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Title Goes Here

Get this Free E-Book

Use this bottom section to nudge your visitors.