Webinar Mindmaven Blog Q&A

Q&A: Silicon Valley’s Top Relationship Management Coach Answers Your Networking Questions

Written By:
Patrick Ewers

Hey FullContact readers, my name’s Patrick Ewers, CEO and founder at Mindmaven.

Some of you may recognize my name from How to Unlock the Full Power of Your Network by Leveraging the Right Relationships, a webinar I recently had the immense pleasure of co-hosting alongside FullContact CEO and Co-founder, Bart Lorang.

To everyone who tuned in: Thank you! We had massive registrations and a great turnout and I hope you all left with some valuable iinsights and actionable ideas.

As I’m sure you know, we had a lot to cover in a short amount of time. As a result, I wasn’t able to get around to some of the great networking and relationship marketing questions all of you were asking.

But I didn’t want to leave you high-and-dry, so I wrote a blog post addressing all the questions we weren’t able to get to in the webinar. Round out your experience and knowledge by checking out my answers below.

Note: If you weren’t able to make it to the webinar—or just want to experience it again—you can watch the recording here.

1. What Contact Tags Do You Recommend Using?

Honestly, this depends on what you want from your network.

As you may remember, I introduced you to the Legends, Champions, Stars, and Players tags during the webinar. This is a great place to start, but anything beyond that depends on your goals.

You can learn how to develop a network rating system that works for you by reading How to Rate Your Network to Get the Most from It.

The problem with tags is that they’re often too ambiguous. Over time, it can become unclear who should be added to what tag and what each tag should be accomplishing.

To avoid this problem, create tags with clearly-defined rules and objectives. For example: With one look, you should be able to say, “This tag is for past and existing clients. I created it because these contacts are the most likely to send me relevant and valuable opportunities in the form of referrals.”

Because the process of identifying the most valuable people in your network is so important, we at Mindmaven created a worksheet to guide you through the process. You can download it here.

2. Which Outreach Methods Give the Highest and Lowest Return?

There are practically endless options when it comes to interacting with your network. You can tweet at them, email them, make a phone call, or schedule a meeting, just to name a few. But not all interactions are created equal.

My favorite methods are those that create the highest experience impact for the other person while requiring the least amount of time and effort from you.

Experience impact, as you may remember from the webinar, is how relevant, meaningful, or valuable a contact perceives one of your interactions.

One way we’ve visualized this in the past is with the Mindmaven Mindshare Activities Matrix, which should give you an idea of the interactions with the highest ROI.

Mindmaven Mindshare Activities Matrix

As you can see, the X-axis measures the experience impact created from low to high and the Y-axis measures the velocity, or frequency, at which those interactions can be provided. Let me break down each of the three clusters.

#1: These are your optimal interactions. With the right resources, they can be sent at high frequency, create a large experience impact, and require a relatively low time investment. For example: Triggered Touch or Follow-Up Emails.

#2: As we covered in the webinar, the goal is to stay top-of-mind; and sometimes all that takes is for someone to read your name. The interactions in cluster 2 are great because you can do them at a high frequency and at an exceptionally low cost. While they don’t typically create a large experience impact, that isn’t always necessary to stay top-of-mind. For example: Facebook updates or tweets.

#3: These interactions are your classical business development strategies, and there’s a reason they’ve become staple tactics: They work. The only downfall is that they are more expensive in terms of time and money. For many people, these strategies are the extent of their relationship marketing efforts. As such, their approach is highly unbalanced. Also, without specific training, you’re probably not getting the ROI you could from these experiences.

At the end of the day, everyone has their own unique and personal portfolio of relationship marketing strategies.

Some of you are exceptionally good at Twitter while others don’t understand it at all. Some of you are great at hosting events while others prefer to just show up.

You don’t have to do everything, but you should try and fill your portfolio with a balance of different strategies. And in general, the area to focus on to get the highest ROI are those interactions with the highest impact and lowest demands.

3. How Do I Decide Which of My Contacts to Invest into If They’re All Influential?

You might have a network full of influential people, but the fact remains that a small group within that greater network is likely more influential than the rest.

Who exactly this group is depends on what you’re pursuing. For example: If your primary drive were to generate referrals, you’d probably focus on a different segment of your network than if your primary drive were gaining access to talent.

Your goals and desires determine who in your network is most influential. Once you know your objective, you can prioritize your network and focus on the people that matter most.

To learn more about defining what you want from your network, I recommend reading How to Generate Valuable, Relevant Opportunities with a Relationship Objective.

4. What Are Some Creative Ways to Engage with People Other Than, “Hey, Let’s Chat?” and How Can You Deliver Value at Scale?

To answer the first part of this question, I recommend you check out The Five Freebies book I mentioned during the webinar. It’s a list of five quick and easy email templates to immediately engage with your network. Here’s the link to that download.

The second part of this question is a little more difficult to answer. There isn’t one “blanket solution” to deliver value at scale; that’s why we at Mindmaven developed an entire coaching program around it. The answer’s going to be different for everyone.

That said, there is one recommendation I can make. To deliver value at scale, you need a resource that dramatically increases your leverage. Here at Mindmaven, we call this resource an Engagement Manager (EM).

Among many other things, an EM frees up your time to focus on truly important tasks, like delivering value to your network. One way they do this is with Meeting Debriefs, a post-meeting process that allows you to capture the professional challenges and personal interests of your contacts.

These challenges and interests can then be used to deliver powerful and scalable interactions like Value Payloads. Put simply, a Value Payload is preproduced email content—usually in the form of links to blog posts, podcasts, or videos—that can easily be shared with anyone that would find them relevant or valuable. You can learn more about how to do this here.

5. Do You Default to An “Offer” Mindset or An “Ask” Mindset at the Beginning of a Relationship?

Personally, I believe you should enter every new relationship with an “offer” mindset. Your first goal should be providing something of relevant value to the other person. Then, once you’ve proven yourself as someone of value, you can switch to an “ask” mindset.

A quick tip: When you make a request of someone, be as specific as possible. The less ambiguous you are, the more likely you are to get what you want. Here’s a quick example:

If you say, “Hey, I’d be interested in meeting anyone who might have a need for an employment lawyer,” the likelihood of getting what you want is pretty low in comparison to, “Hey, I noticed you’re connected to Michael Harris on LinkedIn. Do you know him well enough to introduce me, and would you mind doing so?”

The second ask is very specific and—more importantly—easily actionable. As a result, the likelihood that the person is going to deliver your request is much higher.

6. How Genuine do Interactions Need to Be to Stay Top of Mind? Would Monthly Company Updates from Marketing be Enough?

To answer this, we need to take a look at what an interaction is, exactly. As you may remember from the webinar, you have control over two factors:

  • The frequency of your interactions, or how often you interact with your network, and
  • The experience impact of your interactions, or how relevant and valuable the interactions are to your network.

As a general rule, the higher the experience impact, the more frequent the interactions can be. For example: I’d allow someone to email me every day if that email were a referral.

So the question you’ve got to ask is, “How valuable will the interaction be to the person you’re sending it to?”

If all you’re doing are company updates, your recipients are going to know it’s a marketing email. And if you send something like that every week, they’re probably going to unsubscribe; it simply isn’t relevant or genuine enough to justify the frequency.

But if you send a mass email with updates about your life to people you have an established relationship with, this email will likely be perceived as more relevant because they want to know what’s new with you. As a result, these emails can usually be sent a little more often.

Also keep in mind that you don’t need to deliver the same content to everyone. If you segment and tag your contacts, you can deliver those monthly company updates to the bulk of your network in addition to something more personalized, genuine, and valuable for those contacts you want to make a stronger impression on.

7. When Should I Make a Phone Call, as Opposed to Other Forms of Communication?

Phone calls can be a great avenue to connect with your network. Because we live in an increasingly Slack- and email-driven world, a meaningful phone interaction has the potential to make a lasting impact. Let me illustrate with a quick story.

About a year-and-a-half ago, my father passed away. As a part of processing this loss, I wrote a blog post about what this experience taught me about relationships and shared it with my network.

Of the many people that received that email, only one person—a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist—actually called me. The call probably wasn’t any longer than six minutes, but it meant a lot to me. I haven’t forgotten it to this day and probably never will.

One of the reasons phone calls are so powerful is because you increase the bandwidth of your communication. When you send an email, all the other person gets are the words you wrote. But when you make a phone call, they get to hear the tone of your voice, which often delivers a much fuller, richer communication experience.

The only problem with phone calls is that they often go to voicemail and, very often, that voicemail ends up transcribed in a text or email. So in many ways, unless you actually manage to reach the person you’re calling, your attempt ends up reverting back to a text interaction anyway.

In general, if you call ten people you’re probably only going to end up reaching one or two. But sometimes those interactions can lead to the breakthrough opportunities we’re all seeking. So by making phone calls from time-to-time, you’re increasing the chance of serendipity striking.

8. I Have a 10,000-Person Network. How Can I Stay Top-Of-Mind with Them Without Seeming Spammy?

If you’re reaching out to 10,000 people at a time, you’re leaving the world of relationship marketing and entering the world of classic marketing.

Honestly, there’s no relationship marketing approach that scales to deliver highly-relevant, valuable, and meaningful experiences to 10,000 people at a time; it just can’t be done.

So the first thing I’d recommend you do is look at those 10,000 people and ask yourself, “Who among these people matter the most?” Try to narrow it down to your top 100 and, from there, your top 20; then use the strategies we discussed during the webinar to focus your efforts on them.

Because at the end of the day, your top 100 is probably going to end up providing more value to you than the remaining 9,900.

That said, I typically say any interaction is better than no interaction. So if you’re determined to reach out to all 10,000 people, your best bet is probably to use the personalized update emails I touched on briefly during the webinar. You can read more about this practice here.

Keep in mind: The amount of relevant value you can deliver with a 10,000-person mailing list is pretty minimal. Because you have relationships with these people, the information will be perceived as somewhat relevant, but that relevancy has a glass ceiling.

As a result, you’re going to want to dial back the frequency to avoid appearing spammy. I’d recommend sending out one of these messages no more than once a quarter.

And when you do send them, don’t forget to include a way for people to unsubscribe; otherwise you’ll get yourself into trouble violating CAN-SPAM standards.

9. How Can You Re-establish Connections with Contacts?

Re-engaging with a contact after an extended period of time requires one thing above all else: Context. In other words, you need to know enough about your past relationship with this person if you want to revive it.

Many people make the mistake of failing to record the when’s, why’s, and how’s of how they meet a new contact and, as a result, forget the circumstances of how the relationship began.

Remember the concept of mindshare decay from the webinar? It works both ways. We forget about our contacts just as easily as they forget about us unless we’re disciplined in how we record that information.

That’s why I’m a huge proponent of what I call the “We Met” field. Put simply, this field describes the context under which you met a person. For example: “We met through an introduction by Elizabeth McBride during the RSS Chapter Meetup event in downtown San Francisco on March 3rd, 2016.”

You’ll notice that you can use the way this statement is written to add a touch of personalization to your mass email campaigns. This way you avoid the uncomfortable situation of leaving someone wondering, “Who is this person and why are they contacting me?”

To learn more about how to create these statements, check out If You Forget Everything Else About Your Contacts, Remember This One Thing.

Let me share a quick story to illustrate how important this is in 1:1 relationships as well:

I met a lawyer at a TechCrunch party a few years back. I created a We Met statement for him but the relationship never progressed any further.

About three years later, I noticed he was connected to someone I really wanted an introduction to. If I didn’t have a We Met statement, this relationship would have been inaccessible.

All I’d have been able to do is send an email saying, “Hey, I know we met at one point or another. By the way, can you introduce me to Max?”

I’d argue that only the fewest among us would be comfortable asking such an unskillful question. Thankfully I did create a We Met statement, and I was able to send an email that said something like this instead:

“Hey Eric, do you remember me? You and I had a great conversation at the TechCrunch summer party a few years ago. We swapped war stories and you told me about your friendship with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Anyway, I’ve got a favor I was thinking of asking you but before I do that I wanted to see if you remembered me.”

He responded back and said he not only remembered the conversation, he really enjoyed it. He ended up making the introduction on my behalf, and that introduction ended up leading to a major breakthrough moment for me.

If you’re wanting to reconnect with someone you know well enough that a We Met statement wouldn’t be necessary, I’d again point you to the email templates in The Five Freebies book.

For example: One of the concepts is using an apology as a conversation starter. Let me share one more story to illustrate how this works:

One of my clients needed to reconnect with an old contact he used to be close with. In doing a little research, he realized this person had recently gone through a very difficult divorce.

He felt so bad that he hadn’t been there with him through that experience that he sent an email owning up to his shortcomings and failures as a friend. This apology, and the genuine vulnerability that accompanied it, ended up rekindling that relationship into something highly valuable for both parties.

Note: The reason this worked is because the apology was genuine. This is true for any of the Five Freebies: For your interactions to be perceived as meaningful, relevant, and valuable, they must be genuine and value-focused.

10. How Do You Choose Who to Reach Out to When Opportunities Seem to Come from Everywhere and Everyone at Random?

First things first: It’s very rare that someone’s living in a world where opportunities truly are “random.” In most cases, there’s a clear segment of your network that generates the majority of those opportunities.

In my experience, most people who feel like opportunities can come from anywhere simply haven’t identified the most valuable parts of their network.

That said, there may be a select few people in the world whose opportunity generation really is random. In this rare case, you’ll need to more-or-less randomize your interactions with your network.
Because if your opportunity generation truly is random, it doesn’t matter who you stay top-of-mind with; interacting with anyone will increase the statistical probabilities of getting what you want.

In this case, your goal should be massively increasing the mindshare you enjoy with your network as a whole. Here are a few ways I recommend doing that:

  • Host events. Consider hosting large-scale events, such as CEO dinners or networking events. Just make sure the event will be highly-relevant and valuable to those you invite.
  • Attend events. Identify the events a large part of your network is likely to attend—such as industry conferences or exclusive networking events—and either reserve a spot or get an invite.
  • Mass emails. As mentioned previously, personalized mass email updates are a great and cost-effective way to increase your mindshare across the entirety of your network. Just ensure the information you’re sending will be perceived as meaningful, relevant, or valuable.

While these strategies are great for your network as a whole, you’ll still want a system in place for 1:1 interactions. Here’s what I’d recommend:

If you catch yourself thinking, “I haven’t talked to Jill in awhile,” or, “I should reach out to Ed,” send them an email in that moment. This is the only way you’ll be able to lay the groundwork required for random opportunity generation.

Granted, these moments of inspiration can come at any time and it’s often difficult for us to send these emails “in the moment;” but if we don’t, we often forget and it never ends up happening.

To successfully put these strategies to work and stay top-of-mind with a network where opportunities can come from anywhere, the first investment I’d recommend making is a massive source of leverage, such as the aforementioned Engagement Manager.

What’s Next?

Alright, that about covers everything asked during the webinar. Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions!

If you thought of any questions after-the-fact—or even as you read this article—it’s not too late! Leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Thanks again to everyone that tuned in, and thanks to Bart and the FullContact team for hosting me.

Oh, and one last thing:

Thank you to everyone who signed up for their free coaching session. The response has been so overwhelming that we’ve had to create a waiting list. We’re working hard to free up additional spots, so if you haven’t locked in yours yet, click here to register now! And remember, if you ever want to access the webinar again, you can find it here.

For more from Patrick and Mindmaven, check out their blog.

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