Keep Your Enemies Closer

(Admitted, I spend too much time on Quora, and now I’m trying to at least get some business value from that time.)

Wake Up Wednesday PM at the Pittsboro Roadhouse

Wake Up Wednesday PM at the Pittsboro Roadhouse

Last week, I saw this question: Am I right to remove competitors from a company event?

No, dear heart, you are not right. My answer:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

It is marginally ok to expel them. People will understand. You will look like a dweeb. It is not professional.

Maybe they’re looking for job, and want to work for your company. Maybe you’ll be looking for a job, and wind up working for their company. Maybe you can gain intelligence, too. If your employees are leaking secrets, you have different problems than feeding your competition at your event.

A man I knew years ago built a pool in the backyard, not really because he wanted a pool, but because he wanted his house to be the place where his kids hung out with their friends, and a pool was a good way to make that happen. You want to be the place where people gather.

Social Selling for Red Hat

NCSU’s Technical Training Solutions unit was asked to develop a Social Selling class for Red Hat’s sales employees. Martin Brossman, Greg Hyer, and Karen Tiede worked together to develop a six-hour course, with an additional set of homework to be completed outside of class.

Holly Sullenger, director of TTS, travelled with me to Palo Alto to beta-test the course with the sales staff in that office. They had been asking for additional social selling training, and wanted to see the material as soon as it was ready.

The class went well. As is always the case, there’s nothing like teaching to show you what can be more robust the next time around. Both Holly and I realized we need to be doing more on Twitter. Future iterations will also have more on the three main ways to use Linkedin: input, profile, and output.

Look for an excerpt of the training on Slideshare soon.

Next time, too, we’ll just take the red eye flight home. It’s just as easy to stay till midnight and sleep on the plane as it is to get up early to make a 6 am flight.

How to Select a Networking Group

Two months ago, I was invited to my first BNI meeting. I knew about the organization and had even been invited to join a new group. At that time, I declined the offer to join because was too big of a commitment on a day of the week that was already full.

My thinking changed within 15 minutes of the start of the first meeting I attended. I understand tightly-scripted, repetitive programming repeated weekly. The Christian church used this system to grow across the Western world, and they aren’t the only group using a similar structure: Amway; 12 Step programs; Weight Watchers. They all get their people together at least once a week, in a meeting that follows a standard format, and their groups thrive.

I needed to join.

That first meeting was 40 miles from my home, with a $3.00 toll each way (50 miles without the toll…). While that group is acknowledged as one of the “best” (largest, most active) in the area, 40 miles each way imposes a significant time overhead, not only on the weekly meetings but also on any 1 to 1s I might schedule, given that most of the members would be on that end of the journey.

I decided to look at my options.

On one hand, the “best” meeting for me would be whichever meeting I joined, because 90% of the value of these groups is in the relationships developed within the group itself. That said, I didn’t want to set up any unneccessary resistance-overhead on my membership. I wanted to pick a group I “liked,” as best I could determine that from the two allowed visits. I set a deadline of making a decision by August 1.

(A temptation—the benefits of visiting meetings were so great that I considered not actually joining but simply continuing to visit meetings. That thought faded quickly. I knew the benefit of “visiting” would wear off. I was also pretty sure the leadership of the organization would figure out that game pretty quickly. They probably had a policy about “always a visitor, never a member.” But mostly, I wanted the real benefits, and visitors only get hints of the real benefit of belonging.)

Calendars, Maps, and Clocks

On the local BNI website, chapters are arranged by

  • geography
  • day of the week
  • time of day

I looked at the list of chapters and realized I needed to set some criteria. The immediately obvious elements in the decision matrix were Calendars, Maps, and Clocks.

Calendars

My first selection criterion was day of the week. Mondays and Fridays have constraints that are more important to me than business networking. I visited two meetings that met on Friday morning as a substitute. I liked one of these meetings but the experiment confirmed I did not want to commit to a weekly networking meeting on Friday morning.

I already had meetings I liked on First and Third Wednesdays, so meetings in the middle of the week became a “last choice” option. I focused on the Tuesday and Thursday choices.

Maps

I looked most closely at the meetings that were the shortest driving distance from my home. Although I didn’t restrict myself to the absolute least driving distance, it was unlikely that I would need to drive twice-as-far to find a “good group.” That eliminated chapters on “the other side of town.”

Seven groups met the “Tuesday or Thursday, not too far” criteria.

Clocks

Time of day turned out to be a minor criterion; those meetings that met at lunchtime were eliminated first because of day or location. I don’t have (much) trouble getting up in time to make an 8:00 business meeting once a week.

Set of Seven

Once I had my “set of seven,” how did I come to a decision?

At one meeting, the acoustics of the room were such that I couldn’t hear the speakers at the other end of the table. Given this didn’t happen at other locations, I charged a fault to the room and struck that meeting from my list.

At one chapter, the logistics of the room meant that people had to leave immediately after the end of the meeting. By that time, I had enjoyed several instances of “after meeting” networking. Given my driving distances, it would be very useful to select a meeting that supported the “after meeting.” I struck the “get out quickly” meeting off the list.

Along the way, I noticed that members had different approaches to how they identified who they wanted to meet during their “60 second” commercials. I started counting what % of total membership used a phrase like, “my ideal client is anybody who….”, and counted two strikes if the commercial went on to identify some variation on “anyone who breathes…”

I considered “metrics” and gave extra weight to those groups that regularly reported on activity targets. If “hitting numbers” was part of the membership expectation and benefit, I wanted to be part of a group that reported numbers.

Finally, I observed, “How did the members behave?” I asked one member about his competition. He bad-mouthed the other vendor. Tacky. On another occasion, someone “went political” in a commercial. I vote the other way.

In the end, I discovered that I had NOT selected the group with the

  • Shortest drive
  • Friendliest, most fun members
  • Best after-meeting networking

Those meetings all fell out on other criteria. The group I selected had a good-enough location, enough laughter, and enough after-meeting lingering, to make up.

And of course the real value is not in the particulars of any one chapter, but in working the system at the chapter I join. Stay tuned.

Guest Posting Pitfalls

I listened to one more call about the wonders of doing guest posts to build blog traffic yesterday, and my head started spinning.  Why is it that the people who sell these how-to programs always use examples in the big traffic fields of personal finance and (wait for it) BLOGGING?!?

Getting a guest post on a blog about blogging  when what you do is blog about blogging really isn’t a big deal.  It’s also kind useless if the business you’re in isn’t blogging, directly, or isn’t even related to what you MAKE.

It struck me that I’ve been listening to these webinars and the reason they don’t work for me and I don’t take any action as a result is that THEY DON’T WORK FOR ME.

Duh.

I blog easily about making textile art at Rugs from Rags.  I know a lot about sourcing textiles, repairing looms, and designing new colorways.  But these aren’t the topics that my BUYERS really want to read about.  Other textile artists, sure, but other artists can’t afford my work.

For guest posting, I need to be looking toward the home decor blogs, and I need to be writing about rugs and home decor, or perhaps color selection and stepping outside your comfort zone, and on a stretch, about sound attenuation by hanging rugs on your bigger walls.

Granted, doing a double handoff like that in the middle of a short free webinar designed to attract clients who aren’t sure they know how to write in the first place is a lot to ask.  That is, explaining to the listenership that it’s not quite so simple–write a guest post on Copyblogger!  Traffic will follow!  Especially if you can hit ProBlogger in the same month!  unless, of course, your business isn’t blogging.

Oh well.  You get what you pay for.

Social Networking in 15 Minutes a Day

  1. If you have to, set a timer.
  2. Create folders for the emails you’ll receive from Facebook and LinkedIn, and then create rules that automatically direct any incoming mail into these folders. Open these folders no more than once a day.

Facebook (Personal)

  1. For the first four or six weeks, Facebook can be worse than kudzu. Most people get past this phase. Some do not.
  2. Use lists to organize your friends. Go to Friends / All Friends / Create new list. Friends and Family. Business. High School. Co-workers. College. Neighbors. Clients. (Friends can appear in more than one list, so the high school friends who are active in your life today can appear in “friends and family” as well as “high school.”) You will quickly find that some FB users have TMFT (too much free time). Put these users in a list of their own, so their numerous posts don’t “crowd out” the important but less frequent posts from other people you want to follow.
  3. Once a day, look over the postings from people on the lists you care the most about. Some lists won’t change very often.
  4. If someone has posted something that resonates with you, add a comment.
  5. Notice that you can turn OFF any particularly inane “games” or “applications” that fall into the category of TMFT. You can also turn off posts from individual users, but putting them in their own list serves the same purpose.
  6. You can use privacy settings to limit who sees which of your posts, or you can decide to post comments you’re happy for your entire community to see. Your personality will determine which option works better for you.

Facebook (business)

If you own or represent a business or non-profit entity, consider creating a profile page for that business. You can use the business page to post information directly relevant to the business. Facebook members can become “fans” of that page and receive updates about the business separate from any updates you may want to make about your own life or work.

Linkedin

  1. Create your profile. Customize your public profile URL.
  2. Connect to people you know.
  3. Join groups that appeal to you, that your connections belong to, that strike your fancy. Be sure to set the email notification to “weekly” (the default is daily).
  4. Consider whether any of the applications suit your life and your online image. Voracious readers may want to consider adding the “Reading List” application.
  5. Update your “working on” status regularly, or never. Once a week is a good target.
  6. At the very least, read the weekly LinkedIn update email that contains a synopsis of what your contacts have been doing in Linkedin. Within a few weeks, you’ll learn which of the group emails are worth reading in detail, and which can be skimmed or deleted.
  7. If you have any extra time, consider answering questions in your area of expertise.
  8. One very useful time to use LI is before attending an event where it’s possible to know who else will be attending, such as events managed through Meetup or EventBrite. Review the attendees list and look up a few of the profiles in LI. When you attend the meeting, you’ll know something about some of the people who will be present.

About Twitter

  1. If you’re reading this article because you’re new to social networking and concerned about the amount of time it can take, and if your business operates in a reasonably stable world (i.e., NOT financially dependent on up-to-the-minute breaking news), you can focus on Linkedin and Facebook first.
  2. You might want to open a Twitter account now if you have a particular user name you want to claim.