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The art of referral networking

A few years ago, I attended a networking lunch where I encountered a woman (I cannot even say I “met” her) who, upon arriving, literally threw her cards down at every place setting. I happened to be seated next to her, so I was one of the few people there she actually spoke to. Her first words to me were, “I’m a real estate agent, so if you know anyone who needs to buy or sell a house, refer them to me.” Seriously. She never said, “Hi, my name is Sally and I’m a real estate agent…” She never said please. She did ask for (demand) the business, but in the most boorish, unimaginative way possible. I don’t think that business card even made it out of the room – I threw it in the trash at the first opportunity.

If anyone were to value learning the proper way to give and receive referrals, you’d think it would be someone in a highly competitive industry like real estate. However, I’ve encountered bad networkers in many industries, so perhaps it’s more a case that Phoenix-area businesspeople in general often receive no instruction in how to best represent themselves.

As promised, today we’re going to talk a little bit about the best way to give and receive referrals. Generally when we think of referrals, we’ve got business on the brain. You and your best friend own a Greek restaurant and co-wrote a cookbook. If I’m thinking a typical referral, my mindset is, “Who can I send to eat at your restaurant or buy your cookbook?” But there is such a thing as a referral that doesn’t actually involve buying or selling anything. How did my client who wrote the World War II romance learn in great detail about 1940s wedding dresses? The Google can be helpful for research – but do not discount the solid benefits of talking to a living, breathing expert! Personal referrals can be invaluable when introducing yourself to a stranger.

Here are some important considerations when it comes to making the most of referral networking:

KNOW WHO YOU WANT TO MEET. Regardless of the kind of referral – expert, book buyer, reviewer, or prospective client – as we explored in the last post, the first step is knowing who you want to meet. That requires that YOU know this essential information, but also that you convey it properly to the people who would make referrals to you.

LET OTHERS KNOW WHAT YOU’RE UP TO. A significant aspect of successful referral networking simply involves letting the people in your circles know how they can help you. Unless you tell them, people won’t necessarily know that you are looking to build your platform as an author and/or speaker, that you’re looking to build your business, or that you are undertaking a new research project.

In the early days of my business, my work was primarily editing and my business was aptly named Words Made Easy. It’s a clever, catchy name (except for the “ee” that occurred in the Web address) and worked well for me for a while. Until a few things happened: (1) I began to realize my author clients had spent a lot of time and money to create great books but didn’t have a clue how to market them; (2) I began to branch out into marketing, consulting, and speaking; (3) I began to think of myself as so much more than exclusively an editor; (4) someone first said to me, “I didn’t know you taught blogging and wrote media releases.” Time for a name change to Write | Market Design and, more importantly, time for me to do a better job at letting others know what I do.

TEACH OTHERS HOW TO REFER YOU. Just as I was surprised to hear people say they “didn’t know I did that” about my business, you might be surprised to learn how few people know or understand precisely what you write and/or who you want to meet. Therefore, it’s incumbent on you to teach them. For instance, I know a man who wrote a book about job search that has been off the market for almost a dozen years because it doesn’t have any references to the Internet. His primary business now is getting vets back to work, but he has lots of skill at job search across the board. Do you think he’d turn down a non-veteran client? Of course not! But if people only think of him as working with vets, they may not think to refer empty-nesters, new college grads, or other job seekers to him.

TAKE SOMEONE TO COFFEE. The best way to teach others how to refer you is not in a quick moment amidst the hullaballoo of a networking event, but in a quiet meeting where you each have time to speak and share in a focused way. You won’t do this with every person you meet at every networking event, but for those with whom you sense some simpatico and synergy, it’s a really good idea. Natural pairings might include a book editor and a graphic designer; a jewelry designer and an image consultant; a personal trainer and a chiropractor; a plumber and an electrician.

TEACH THEM WHAT TO LISTEN FOR. In this face-to-face meeting with a prospective referral partner, besides explaining who, specifically, you would like to meet, you have the opportunity to prime them for keywords or phrases that indicate such a person. For instance, a life coach might want you to listen for people discussing divorce, career change, or sending their last kid off to college. Think about it a bit. What keywords would be indicators of the kinds of people you’d want to meet?

REMIND THEM TO CONNECT WITH YOU. As such an automatic aspect of our day-to-day interactions anymore, it’s rather surprising that we still need to remind our referrers (and those they are referring) to check us out on our social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Here’s a good place to remind you, however: Don’t post anything in these places that you wouldn’t want prospective clients/readers to see! I’ve made the decision to be open about my politics on my social networks because it’s very important to me. But I know the risk inherent with doing so. Someone in sales might be more inclined to keep their politics to themselves. I get that. Think before you post so that nothing will come back later to bite you.

MAKE THE INTRODUCTIONS EASY. Use your common sense when referring someone to a businessperson you know. Generally speaking, the person looking to build the business is going to take more initiative than the person looking for the service (unless, of course, you’re locked outside your house at midnight with the alarm blaring). Perhaps the very best way to make an introduction is in person, but that’s not always practical. So, rather than hurriedly handing someone a name and phone number, what’s the next best way to do it? Make a mutual referral. This involves having contact info for both parties. You can then write an introductory email to both individuals, or call each of them and provide details about the other person.

This is just a tiny overview of the practice of referral networking. Done properly, it can be a HUGE boost to your business or the growth of your author’s platform. There are entire programs developed around the practice, so if you want to learn more, I encourage you to do your research and take that next step.

Next, we’ll explore practical ways to make yourself memorable.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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Since I can’t meet everyone, who DO I want to meet?

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve attended even a handful of networking meetings, you’ve heard (or perhaps uttered) the two most dangerous words one can use in a networking environment: Anybody who. Yet we come across it all the time: A good lead for me is anybody who _______FILL IN THE BLANK_______.

LIFE COACH: Anybody who wants to improve their life.

ATTORNEY: Anybody who wants to file a lawsuit.

REAL ESTATE AGENT: Anybody who is looking to buy or sell a home.

AUTHOR: Anybody who reads XYZ genre.

The problem is that we’re NEVER looking for anybody who anything. At least we shouldn’t be. Why not? Well, if I were a life coach who gave my client homework, but he refused to do it, I’d probably get a little frustrated because my dear client would be working against his own interests. Likewise for a legal client who ignored advice, a real estate client who had unmanageable expectations, or readers who kept insisting a certain author write something else.

One of the organizations to which I owe a debt of gratitude for my professional success is a group called Shared Vision Network. Even the name offers an indication of how this group was different. Life moves on, though, and the group has disbanded, but boy did I learn a lot from my participation in it. One thing we all became very proficient at was identifying our ideal clients. It even got to be a bit of an inside joke. You could always tell the new person in the room during the 30-second  intros, because almost inevitably they’d say “I’m looking to meet anyone who…” Immediately, the rest of us would shake our heads and kindly teach the newbie why we want to be more specific in our thoughts and intentions.

We need to dump the “anybody who” outlook and drill down to discover who we really want as clients/customers/readers. Then we must teach the others in our leads/networking groups exactly how to refer business to us. Be more specific about whom you’d like to meet by mentioning things like:

  • Age
  • Geographic location
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Parenting status
  • Pet owner status
  • Hobbies
  • Education level

As we’ve mentioned in past posts, when it comes to building your platform — which leads to selling books
it’s essential that you identify the things that make someone an ideal reader for your particular brand of writing. Will you meet this precise person at every networking event? Unlikely. However, you can plant the seeds in the minds of others who might know this person.

In our next post, we’ll discuss precise strategies for giving and receiving referrals that work.

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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Book marketing for different “breeds” of readers

I have a friend who may be the least adventurous reader I know. He likes thrillers like Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz, and David Baldacci – and that’s ALL he reads. He’s a built-in buyer for these kinds of writers; even though he’s a huge baseball fan, the chances that he’ll ever pick up Moneyball or a work of baseball fiction are slim to none.

Is it possible to market to such a reader if you write anything other than thrillers? Perhaps not. But the most important thing is recognizing the personality types of your own audience. I liken them to the personalities of my four-legged family members. My husband and I have three dogs and two cats, each of whom has a particular personality that reminds me of different kinds of book buyers.

SPENCER – The adventurous reader

Spencer is a feisty, wire-haired terrier mix with a mind of his own. He tells us loudly when he wants to go in or out, and he’ll take off like a rocket at the first hint of an open door. He is thrilled to go for walks and will gladly lead the way, sniffing every tree and leaving his mark as he goes. Spencer is the adventurous reader, the one who (unlike my thriller-loving friend) is willing to take chances on new titles, authors, and genres. If he likes this book, he’ll gobble it up and be hungry for more. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll keep moving – but one ill-suited choice won’t stop him from picking up something new again next time.

BRIX – The timid reader

Brix is a shepherd mix who showed up on our doorstep a few days before Christmas 2009 and has never left. He was rail thin (we found out he had Valley Fever) and we nursed him back to health. Now he’s kind, loving, and very well-mannered, but sometimes his lack of assertiveness hurts him – like when our little Jack Russell comes over to his bowl and nudges him out of the way. I frequently tell him, “You’re 10 times bigger than she is! Why are you afraid of her?” to no avail. Unlike Spencer, when we go for walks, he waits right by my side for me to lead. Brix is the timid reader who needs someone to suggest titles to him because he lacks the confidence to choose them on his own. He’s likely influenced by friends and/or reviews but will seldom select a book simply because he thinks he will like it.

MOONDANZ – The devoted reader

Moondanz is my 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier. She’s been with me since she was about 6 months old and has traveled with me back and forth across the country numerous times. She’s something of a food addict and will eat anything you put in front of her (see the story about Brix above). Before age caught up with her, she enjoyed nothing better than playing fetch with a stick for hours. Moondanz is the loyal reader who’s been with you forever and will buy whatever you publish. She’s faithful and devoted and will go wherever you lead her, trusting that you won’t steer her wrong. In this way, she is perhaps less discriminating than a new reader, but she’s a steadfast customer you can always count on.

ISIS and IRIS – The wild cards

Besides the three dogs, we have twin feline females who are still almost as cute as when they were kittens. They are playful and energetic. Typical domestic predators, they’ve brought their share of live birds into the house which I’ve had to rescue and release in the middle of the night. Lately they’ve taken to bringing in trash from around the neighborhood: fast food bags, empty juice boxes, old bus passes. Empty cigarette packs seem to be a favorite. Isis is the vocal one, while Iris is a bit more adventurous. Though both come with me when I walk the dogs, Iris will dart back and forth across the street and doesn’t hesitate for a moment when we pass a yard with a barking dog. These are your wild card readers. They’re a bit unpredictable and may bring a few bad habits to the table. They may read your book; they may not. They may recommend your book; they may dismiss it or give it a bad review for little or no apparent reason. They may buy one book and love it, but never buy another thing you write. These readers are the ones you worry the least about because they’re impossible to predict or control. You’ve heard the phrase “herding cats”? That’s who these readers are – and herding them is probably just wasted effort on your part.

Who are YOUR readers? Are they more adventurous, more timid, or just loyal folks who’ve been with you from the start? How you reach out to each of these groups will differ – as will their response to your marketing efforts. Having a definitive plan for each group will better ensure that you capture the widest possible audience for your book.

Happy differentiating!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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“Is there a market for my book, or should I bury it at sea?”

This was the question a prospective client recently asked me about a book he’s already written. Whether it’s the optimist, the marketer, or the passionate communicator in me, I almost always feel there’s a market for an author’s book.

Let’s be outrageous for a moment and talk about the guy who’s writing a protocol manual for left-handed Chinese goatherds. Really? With more than 1.25 billion people in China, and most of those living in rural areas, there may actually be more of a market than you’d think. But then reality sets in, and you have to ask, what is the likelihood that a million Chinese goatherds will see a need for this fella’s new book – and more to the point, that we can get word to them about the book so that they will buy it? Probably kind of slim.

OK – that’s an extreme example … but it illustrates a great point. It’s essential that you know who your audience is BEFORE you start writing your book. The most challenging place in the world for a new author is having 39 crates of books in their garage, and no one waiting to buy them.

Who is your audience?

The answer to that question will go a long way in determining how marketable your book really is. But, that’s not the only factor. A second, equally important question is:

What is your goal for your book?

  • Do you want it to become a best-seller?
  • Are you looking to find a niche to develop a speaking/seminar business?
  • Is your goal to build your status as a credible expert in your industry?

There’s no right or wrong answer – just make sure you’re clear about the answer before you start writing your book or your marketing plan.

For example, I have a client who is working on a book about her experience living with CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). While many books already exist on the subject, her audience is quite distinct: she’s writing to healthy people who likely have little to no accurate knowledge about the illness, with a goal of building support, research, and funding to find a cure. Although my client is putting a ton of effort and expense into this book, she readily admits that she will be happy to sell 200 copies. I think this book has the potential to sell many more than that, but my client knows her personal limitations (due to her illness), in terms of blogging, public speaking, and all the other things that would/could put the book in the hands of her target audience, and she’s fine with her small, but attainable goal.

Think about cable TV and the recent wave of every kind of specialty show imaginable. From power eating (“Man vs. Food”) to best beard competitions (“Whisker Wars”) and everything in between, the relative ease of creating video programming today is filling the cable stations with specialty shows to meet every taste.

The same is true for books – but to an even larger degree. Consumers are now aware that there’s an abundance of info out there tailored to THEIR SPECIFIC NEEDS, and they are hungry for it. The trick is to get your book with the answer to their problem into their hands. In order to do this, it makes sense to set aside the general topic that might – if the sun, moon, planets, and all the stars lined up – become a bestseller, and focus on the specialty audience.

No matter what or whom we’re talking about, from movies to chiropractors to books to financial planners, the consumer hankers after specialization.

— Susan Friedmann

Does a smaller audience mean you’ll sell fewer books? It might. But you might also spend a lot less money, time, and effort selling fewer books to an audience who has a real need for your information than by trying to make the whole world your audience and getting nowhere. Tailoring your book to a specialty group also opens up the door for you to write a second book, and a third, and a fourth… It opens the door for you to present seminars and webinars and workshops. It opens the door for you to build your expert status by demonstrating specialized knowledge on this particular subject matter.

Is there an audience for your book? Probably. How big it is and how you will reach them are the questions you need to answer before you take your next step.

Happy authoring!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

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