Transcript of Communicating with Empathy in the Digital World

Transcript of Communicating with Empathy in the Digital World written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Has technology in the virtual world that we live in made it easier to communicate or harder? Sure, in some ways it’s made it easier to have distributed staff and have clients all over the world, but we’ve lost the emotional impact of our communication when we don’t have that face-to-face. Think about our emails that maybe don’t quite get the point across that we were trying to make. We have to learn how to communicate differently in a virtual world. And in this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I visit with Dr. Nick Morgan, author of Can You Hear Me?

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Dr. Nick Morgan. He is considered one of America’s top communications coaches and he’s the author of a book we’re going to talk about today. Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World? So, Nick, thanks for joining me again.

Nick Morgan: John, great to be back with you.

John Jantsch: There are lots of pros to this virtual world. I mean, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I mean, it used to be if somebody wasn’t in your town, and you couldn’t get in the car and go drive to them, you couldn’t have them as a customer. Certainly, you couldn’t have an employee that wasn’t there kind of sitting at a desk. So a lot of pros, but obviously your book suggests that there are some inherent hurdles as well. So you want to kind of map out those hurdles that we maybe haven’t considered that now so many of us are doing a lot of our work virtually.

Nick Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. First I should acknowledge you’re absolutely right, that there are huge advantages to the virtual world. That’s why it’s taken the work world and a lot of our personal lives as well by storm. And the greatest acceleration has been in the last decade with mobile phones; they really transformed our lives. After a decade, it’s just become clear that in spite of what we thought at the beginning, it’s not all good. So on the positive side, we get what they call a reduction in friction out in Silicon Valley. Meaning it’s much easier to send emails and everything else. It’s also virtually free. Your reach extends enormously and as you said, it means that we can do things like work remotely and all that sort of thing. There’re huge amounts of good. It’s not going away. I’m an audiophile myself, an early adapter.

I love gadgets. I have all my Apple gadgets line up. So your listeners should understand, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing or it’s going to go away either one. I’m saying that there are some problems which we’re now slowly beginning to understand that really need to be paid attention to. It was a couple of studies that caught my eye.

First of all, there are two cohorts as the statisticians like to say that have been studied pretty closely and you may find it surprising they are teenage girls and retired people for their usage of virtual media, virtual means of communication. Teenage girls, of course, because mobile phones have transformed their lives perhaps more so than anybody else. They spend more time on mobile phones than any other group as far as we know.

The other group, perhaps surprisingly again, is the retired population, shut-insurance, and folks who are less mobile perhaps. And the whole idea for them was that the virtual would be great because it would enable them to keep in touch with their grandchildren and their kids and enable them to stay connected to a world, which, otherwise might be harder for them if they were less mobile, so on and so forth.

Studying those two populations was really shocking. As I saw the research, there’s a direct correlation between the amount of time those two populations spend on their mobile phones or in virtual media and their likelihood of being depressed. The basic equation or the basic deal that this will enable you to stay connected isn’t working for those two populations and it isn’t working for everybody else. When I saw that I thought I have to understand this a little bit better. So I dove further into the research and I came up with five problems that the virtual world has that we need to address and we need to do our best to fix. So let me pause there for breath.

John Jantsch: I wonder if you know, I don’t think there’s too many teenage girls listening to the show or too many retired folks. What you’re suggesting is that that translates to some percentage of everybody who is doing this, including people who work for companies remotely and distributed. Would it be fair to say that you could also frame these as differences? So in other words, are there not just a problem necessarily? There’s just a different way that we have to communicate given the technology that we’re using?

Nick Morgan: Yes. That’s the nice way to put it, John, and I have no problem with that. The other stat I should throw in there, by the way, is that employee disengagement as the number of virtual workers and the amount of virtual work we do goes up, employee disengagement also increases and it’s currently at an all-time high. It’s roughly two-thirds here in the United States and it’s higher worldwide. It seems to be affecting the work population too, although there is a correlation, we haven’t an established a causation, but there’s a very strong correlation and that’s the caveat here. So yes, we do and that’s exactly the point of the book. We do need to learn a new way of communicating, but first, we have to understand what’s going wrong so that we can communicate better.

John Jantsch: Yeah. Because one of the themes that comes up time, and again. And not just in your book, anytime people have talked about technology. Technology was supposed to make us more connected in study after study shows that we’re now lonelier than ever.

Nick Morgan: Yes, exactly. That’s what starts me off, and I thought, let’s understand why, and it’s because that’ll tell us what we can do about it. So the first big problem is that we’re still communicating as if we were communicating face-to-face. In other words, when I get on the phone, I don’t think consciously I’ve got to do something fundamentally different than when you and I are having a face-to-face conversation. And yet I do because here’s what happens on email and on the phone and even in video conferencing, although to a slightly lesser extent. What happens is this huge wash of emotional information that normally gets exchanged between people easily and unconsciously, most of that gets lost. And I don’t mean to be mysterious about this. Let me give a simple example.

So when you’re sitting there conversing with somebody face-to-face, and you say something a little smart ass, “Your hair’s on fire, John,” you can tell by the expression on my face that I’m kidding. Let’s hope. And I can tell if I say something that hurts your feelings, or it goes a little too far, I can tell right away by the look in your eye or the fact that you winch or something like that. That’s what I mean, those kind of simple human exchanges of intent are profoundly important for us humans. We care enormously about other people’s intent and not just whether they like us or not, but are they on the team, are they enthusiastic about this idea? Are they going to work hard to carry it out or are they just kind of lukewarm, or are we carrying them? Those kinds of day-to-day work-related concerns about other people’s intent, and our own intent are incredibly important to effective working.

John Jantsch: Well, and I suspect we get conditioned too, unconsciously, to take that feedback in. Right? I mean we don’t even know we’re doing it.

Nick Morgan: Yeah, exactly. We’re not even aware of consciously that we’re doing it. We don’t have to think about it, but then we get on the phone and it’s just that much harder and I could go into the technical reasons why that’s the case. It has to do with data compression and the way voices are compressed over the phone, but let’s not worry ourselves in the details. The point is, Justin, that it gets harder to detect that same emotional information. It’s a much narrower bandwidth, is a simple way to think about it And then, of course, you think about email, it’s much, much worse. How many times have you sent an email with a clever little joke in it that you thought was hilarious and the other person for some unbelievable reason got offended? And then you had to spend six or seven emails sorting out the problem that you inadvertently caused because the other person was so dumb. Couldn’t have been me.

John Jantsch: I’ll give you another one example that I remember vividly. The first time I did a webinar, and actually it’s so long ago, Nick, we called it a teleseminar, there was no video involved. People just got on the phone and listened.

Nick Morgan: Fantastic.

John Jantsch: I remember I had been speaking publicly to audiences for a number of years by that point. And I remember the first time I did that, I had trouble breathing because I was getting no feedback at all and I had no idea if what I was saying was landing at all. And I remember how different and odd that was.

Nick Morgan: Yes. And you bring up the further point, which is really important for your audience to get, which is our brains are constantly seeking that emotional feedback and that feedback just about our surroundings and imagine us in the evolutionary state as a beings walking through the African Savanna, looking for shadows because one of them might be a tiger. It’s to our advantage to assume the worst in a situation like that because that’s liable to keep us alive. So you can imagine people evolving to be the ones who survived to be a little more nervous than the folks who got eaten by the tigers.

As a result, when we don’t get that emotional information precisely to your point about your talk, the first time you talked, then what we do is we assume the worst. We assume that those people hate us or they’re disinterested or they’ve checked out or they’re falling on the floor, falling asleep. And so we tend to get more anxious and more panicked and the communication tends to turn negative. At the far end of this, of course, is trolling. And that’s why there’s so much trolling in the virtual world because everybody’s busy unconsciously assuming the worst about each other.

And that’s the first real serious hazard of virtual communications and one that we certainly didn’t intend back when we invented or embraced, I should say, because I didn’t invent it, but it embraced the email world, and then all the other aspects of the virtual world.

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Nick Morgan: Well, and I’m probably jumping around here, but I’ll throw that around to the audience that is listening, I know now because I watch people all the time and you hear anecdotally from people and now that we have this technology, it’ll say how much of your audiences multitasking while you’re talking when you’re on a Webinar or something. I know I don’t attend to a lot of webinars and things myself because it’s extremely hard for me to stay focused.

It is, it’s just there’s less emotional input, throughput if you will, coming through. That leads to the second problem that really, you just described it, which is without the emotional feedback that we’re getting, we don’t stay engaged and we have a lack of empathy. That is, we’re less worried about the other people because we don’t know how they’re feeling, so we assume they’re feeling kind of bad. But our empathy quotient, it really go way, way down. And as a result, again, trolling is the final outcome of that. And that leads to the next problem which is, and this one may surprise people, when you take out the empathy, when you take out the emotional information, then it gets harder to make good decisions. Now, that’s surprising perhaps because we tend to think of decision making as a logical exercise.

For Star Trek fans this is Mr. Spock versus Captain Kirk. Spock is the decision maker. He’s the logical but, in fact, the way we make decisions is what we learned as a child. It’s not logical. It’s imagine that moment when you were two years old and you walk into the kitchen and there’s this pretty red glowing object on the stove and you think, “Oh, that’s cute. I’m going to go touch that.” So you put your finger on it, what happens? You’re suddenly awash and pain and anger and shock and horror and fury, and so you never, ever, ever do that again.

Now, that’s a very simple example of how memory works and how our brains are constructed. We have little experiences it’s like little videos running in our head and we try stuff out and according to how well or badly it works, we attach emotion to it and file it away in our brains. And so most of our decision making is really goes to like the following. So you go, “Okay, so I’m thinking about buying a new car. Well, the other times I bought a new car, it went like this. It was easy. It was hard. I got screwed by the salesman. I didn’t. I got a good deal, good doing this.” So we compare it to past experiences and then we make an emotional decision accordingly depending on how painful or pleasant it was.

Now, if you take out the emotional attachments, it gets harder for us to make decisions. It gets harder for us to measure the importance of what we’re doing because we’re just not that interested. So imagine, for example, a work team on an audio conference that they do every single week and the boss is droning on and everybody’s got it on mute and they’re keeping up with email while they’re talking or not talking while the boss is talking. And then the boss suddenly says, “Okay, so what do you want to do about X?” And it’s very hard for people at that point to make a good decision because they’re not invested in the conversation. They might be bored if they were face-to-face, but chances are it’s a little harder to get away with and the boss would know and, and people would see each other and as a result, they’d calibrate accordingly. So that’s the next problem that happens online and it’s a subtle one and it means we really have to watch ourselves because it’s likely that the decision making, the quality of the decision making in virtual conversations is going to be poor.

John Jantsch: Again, I know we’ve spent more than half the show allotted show telling people what’s wrong, what the problems are. So let’s flip it completely around and say, “Okay, what do we need to be doing?” Because I mean, the reality is we, in some cases, have to work this way. So what do we, what can we do to actually take those inherent challenges and say, “Okay, we need to be aware and so we need to do X.”

Nick Morgan: Great. Yeah, excellent question. And that’s what the book is about. And the bad news, if you will, is that there isn’t one big thing you can do that will cure everything. The good news is there are a lot of fairly simple things you can do to begin to make the situation better and none of them is particularly complicated. What we’re trying to do here is put in the emotional subtext that’s been taken out. What I say is we need to learn a new language, and it has the great advantage of if you start practicing this at home and then you have teenage kids, it’ll make your teenage kids think you’re really, really weird and that’s always good. So this is worth trying.

John Jantsch: Is this going to end with emojis in some fashion?

Nick Morgan: Absolutely, John. Emojis are going to be involved. But the first thing to do and a little more seriously is you need to think about asking yourself the question or asking your team the question and you may even ask it out loud, but the question that really begins to get you thinking along the right lines is, “How did what I just say make you feel?” Now, if I asked that question to myself and I’m in a conversation with you, John, and I realize I don’t know the answer to that question, then I need to slow down and ask it perhaps out loud or ask some related questions that let me know, “How is John really feeling about this? Was this successful or not?” And one of the simple ways I recommend for people, for example, to do this, who have a weekly staff meeting, let’s say a team meeting, that’s virtual and the team is spread out all over the world. It’s in Singapore, in California and Europe or something.

You want to make this easy on yourself because you’re going to be doing it every week. So just start the meeting by saying, “Okay, I want everybody to go around, check-in, like a stoplight, red, yellow or green. And Red means I’m facing a disaster. I shouldn’t even be on this call. Yellow means things are a little tense so there’s something going wrong, but I can cope. I’m here. And Green means everything is great.

And so that’s a very easy thing to do. People have permission to do it. And then whoever the team leader is, or whoever’s convening the conference call, if somebody says red, they can say, “Oh, John, I’m sorry to hear that. Do you want to tell us what’s going on? Or do you want to be led off the call?” It gives them permission to address the issue in a way that’s much, much harder to do if you just say, “Okay, let’s get started. Everybody. How is everybody first?” They’re one of those kinds of things that we tend to do where the person is really upset or really fuming or really got a real disaster is just sort of beginning to try to think, “Ah, how can I say this?” Or, “How could I talk about it? I don’t want to talk about it.” And then by the time he or she has figured out the answer to what they’re going to say, everybody’s already moved on and you just don’t have time to kind of get that inside.

The red, yellow, green allows you the space and the respect of everybody to give an honest answer in that situation. And then you can ask that question again at the end of the meeting just to see how the meeting affected people. But it’s really about slowing down and starting to put in little markers like that, that allow people, give people the room, the space, the respect to be able to say how they’re feeling. We just have to get more conscious of that because we can’t keep communicating as if we were face-to-face.

John Jantsch: I think that, that’s one of the things that, this mind-body connection that is so important. Half of that lost. I think by being virtual but again, I go back to the fact that, that’s the way we work today. And so I think we just need to come up with new habits, new ways to work. And one of the things I remember reading in the book is that, and I think this is what you’re alluding to, this kind of chit-chat period and the beginning. How’s everybody doing? Yeah. But the reality is that we used to do that when we’d walk down the hall from each other. And so we’d know how people were doing or we’d know what was going on in their family. And now that may be the only opportunity we get is that kind of first five minutes in the weekly status call. I struggle with that sometimes. How do you have that moment? Do you need to separate that moment and make that another meeting somehow?

Nick Morgan: Yeah. I recommend a number of strategies, and you can pick the one that works for you. The problem with the beginning of that typical conference call is think how it actually goes. You’ve got a sound that lets you know that somebody else has come on. So here’s how it goes. You sign in. Let’s say you’re the team leader, and you’re responsible, and you sign in a minute beforehand. So you’re all ready to go, and you hear the first boop when somebody else signs, and you go, “Oh, who’s that?” And it says, “John.” “Oh, John a great how you doing?” And we have something that corresponds to a one-on-one conversation. And we start into that for about 15 seconds and then there’s another boop and somebody else goes, “Oh, who’s that?” “Oh, it’s Bill.” “Okay, Bill. Great. Well, Bill, it’s Nick and John on the call. How are you?”

And then Bill, since it’s a three-way conversation, we have a little different response and it kind of a three-way conversation than we do a two-way conversation. And so Bill starts in on how he is, but perhaps not as honestly. Then he’s two seconds in and we hear another boop. Then, “Who’s that?” So you end up with this really idiotic … It’s typically the first five minutes of one of these calls where there’re just endless interruptions and it’s really hard to get a clear conversation going with anybody, let alone the whole group. And so I suggest a couple of things.

The stoplight approach is one. Another is to say, “We’re all going to sign in at such and such a time and the first X minutes are going to be chit-chat. We encourage you to join and then we’ll start the business at such and such a time.” that relies on people being honest and good timekeepers, and we all know in the business world, some are better than others.

Another one is to get people, and this works really well for teams that are in different countries. Is to get people to record little 30-second videos of themselves, of their surroundings, have a conversation they’re having or the look from their desk or just anything about their local culture that matters to them or a fun thing they did on the weekend. You can set the assignment so everybody has permission to do it and you’d be surprised how well that brings people together because everybody gets a chance to see the videos as the meeting starts and laugh at them or celebrate with them or, responded accordingly. That’s another one that works.

And yet another one is to put the, and this one, it depends on having a good team already, a strongly united team, but you can put the chit-chat at the end because that then avoids all the interruptions. That can feel a little more artificial unless the team is really strong. But the point is that you need to separate out the chit-chat as you were calling it, but it’s really the emotional connection. The trust-building, let’s say is a better word for it, better term for it. The trust-building part of a call like that, and then the business transaction part of the call like that because it’s hard in a virtual setting to do both cleanly and well. So it works much better to separate them.

Then, of course, another and even the better way to go about this is to insist on regular face-to-face meetings. The general argument in favor of virtual communication and against face-to-face meetings is expense and time. That’s the great advantage of the virtual world. It’s free. You don’t have to travel, you save enormous amounts on your travel budget. And it’s very convenient. Well, think about how actually rich a face-to-face conversation is in the ways that which we’ve been talking. It’s an actually very efficient way for humans to communicate and so if trust is at all an important part of what your team does, or what you do with your customers, if this is a customer call, then you should be enhancing that virtual conversation with a face-to-face one every now and then and you’ll save yourself enormous amounts of effort online just because when we’re face-to-face, all that communication happens so effortlessly. Even as we move further and further into the virtual world, don’t forget the importance and the ultimate efficiency of a face-to-face conversation.

John Jantsch: One of my daughters worked for a few years for a company, I think they had about 100 employees at the time, and they were all distributed. So there was no office for the company at all. Three times a year or so they would take a week and go somewhere really cool. But they all work for the week. It wasn’t just play. I mean, it was let’s work on, it was a software company, let’s work on code together in the same room and I think that, that really, they, they still had an incredibly strong culture, I think by virtue of taking that money that they might’ve spent on an office building and putting it into what I think was probably a more cultural enriching expenditure.

Nick Morgan: Absolutely. Yeah. That’s the best of both worlds. Something like that is the best way really to handle the virtual aspect and the face-to-face aspect.

John Jantsch: I want to end on one, that I think haunts everyone. That’s if you had a couple of tips for email. I know over the years, as it’s become such an important tool, I know the one thing that I definitely do is I spell everything out as plainly as I possibly can and make no assumptions that they understand what I’m trying to point … I’ll go back and read it and go, “Okay, could that be, should I have used a noun there instead of a pronoun there?” I mean, I really sweat over no important emails that they probably end up a little longer, but I hope that they’re clear.

Nick Morgan: Yeah, you’re doing exactly the right thing. One of the sort of implicit of things that happens as we get more important and rise up through the ranks in an organization is, all the studies show this, our emails tend to get shorter and shorter and there’s kind of, there’s a reason for it as presumably as you go up the ranks, you’re answering more and more email so you’ve just got more to cope with. But it’s also part showing off too, isn’t it? “I’m so busy and important I can afford or I have to respond with a one-word response.” Well, it’s almost better to type out the one-word response on a piece of paper and then set it on fire rather than sending a one-word email because the likelihood that you’re going to be misunderstood, especially as you become more important in the organization, we care more and more about your intent and we care most of all about the CEOs or the president’s intent and so that it’s most incumbent on him or her to be most clear.

And so I recommend in the book a format that sort of ensures that you start with a headline and says what the email is about and then you give the substantive part of it and then you talk about the emotions at the end. And then you ask, you give the other person permission to ask, how does this make me feel or to answer how this makes me feel? I also recommend, and people may find this funny, of the use of emoji’s and emoticons because early on there’s some research that suggested that in the business world, people look down initially on folks who use the emoticons and emoji’s because they were seen as sort of childish or something, but they can save a lot of hurt and time. You put a smiley face at the end of something that’s intended to be a joke.

Then just maybe the other person won’t get as offended by the tone in it and maybe they’ll say, “Okay, yeah, he was just kidding. I’ll forgive him.” And so it’s a huge time saver. So I would say use the emoji’s, especially the millennials are going to use them anyway. And so in a few years, it’s going to be second nature. You’re going to have to use them or you’re going to look like somebody who’s out of touch. So get used to emoji’s, use them because they’re going to save you a lot of emotional angst.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I would say my own experience too, you get in a hurry and you’re just trying to answer what somebody asked you. And you forget to say thank you for responding to my email and giving me such a thorough answer. I think that’s not intentional. I think it’s just the person’s not there. So I just, I didn’t quite have the cue to say thank you first. And I think that, that’s one thing I certainly try to work on.

Nick Morgan: Yeah. And you’d do that automatically if the person was face-to-face, so one of the little tragedies I learned about the other day was studies of kids who have Alexa in the household or the Google equivalent. They actually learn to demand things of other people that sound incredibly rude when you’re face-to-face. So they’ll say to somebody, “Daddy, get me some cookies.” Right? Whereas normally they’d learned, “Can I please have some cookies?” Or, “Daddy, would you please get me some cookies?” Because that’s what works with Alexa. I’ve heard, and I don’t have the direct evidence to support this, but I’ve heard that Alexa and some others are now creating child versions that demand you say please and thank you to Alexa, which I think is a very good idea if that’s who’s teaching us how to communicate.

John Jantsch: You’d get a kick out of this. I actually ask Alexa to please tell me a joke. I don’t demand it because I think you’re absolutely right and she or he or whatever Alexa is, will respond even if you ask politely.

Nick Morgan: There you go. It’s good practice, John, for when you actually talk to a real human being. You’ll remember how to do it.

John Jantsch: Well, Nick, this was fun. Thanks for joining me today. I’m speaking with Dr. Nick Morgan, author of Can You Hear Me? So, Nick, tell us where people can find out more about you and your work as well as the book?

Nick Morgan: Sure. Thanks. It’s publicwords.com is our website and there’s lots of free information there about public speaking, my passion, as well as the hazards of the virtual world. So have a look there and there’s a contact form that you can ask me questions directly or just send it to my email, nick@publicwords.com.

John Jantsch: Maybe I’m not stealing your thunder here because maybe you’re already in conversations with people. This ought to be a college class.

Nick Morgan: I think you’re right.

John Jantsch: All right.

Nick Morgan: I think we all need it.

John Jantsch: Yeah, absolutely. So thanks again and hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road someday soon.

Nick Morgan: Excellent. Thanks, John.

Communicating with Empathy in the Digital World

Communicating with Empathy in the Digital World written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Nick Morgan
Podcast Transcript

Dr. Nick MorganThis week on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I speak with Dr. Nick Morgan. He is one of America’s leading experts on communication and is the founder and CEO of Public Words. As a communication coach and theorist, he has worked with leaders in the public and private sectors to perfect their public communications and deliver their message with clarity and enthusiasm.

He is the author of several books, including his latest, Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.

On today’s episode, we discuss the focus of the book: how to best communicate in today’s digital world, which strips our daily virtual conversations of the emotional connection they would contain if we were always face-to-face.

Questions I ask Nick Morgan:

  • What are the hurdles to working in the virtual world?
  • Why is it so difficult to remain focused during virtual communications?
  • What can we do to overcome the challenges that come along with virtual communication?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why the basic premise that the digital world leads to greater connection is an inherently flawed one.
  • How we lose other’s intent when we’re communicating through virtual means.
  • What effect the loss of empathy has on the decision-making process.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Nick Morgan:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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Why Partnerships Are Your Secret Weapon to Building Referrals

Why Partnerships Are Your Secret Weapon to Building Referrals written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Generating referrals is the key to securing your business’s long-term success, and it can feel like a pretty massive undertaking. One way to lighten the load and help you to create a more sustainable stream of referrals is to build partnerships.

Why go it alone when you could instead join forces with other business owners and make the referral process easier for both of you?

Types of Partnerships

When you’re thinking about establishing partnerships for your business, there are a few different types of relationships to consider.

  • Strategic partners. These are businesses or individuals who provide a good or service that is directly tied to your business’s product offering. If you’re a graphic designer, you want to have a trustworthy copywriter who you can suggest to your clients.
  • Content partners. A network of publishers, bloggers, and those in need of content for their own sites can help you to spread your business’s name, mission, and unique point of view to a whole new audience of people.
  • Co-marketing partners. These are business owners whose business models have some sort of synergy with your own company. If you’re a plumber, this person might be an electrician or contractor. If you own a wine shop, this might be the owner of the cheese store down the street. As a fellow business owner who’s not in direct competition with you, but does business with a subset of the population who might also have an interest in and need for your business’s offerings, these relationships offer easy cross-promotion opportunities.

Bonus points if you can create partnerships that are unexpected like the ones I outline here; unique partnerships can generate even more marketing buzz!

There are a variety of reasons to consider each type of partnership, and there’s a different value-add that comes from each one. That’s why it’s important to focus on building up a comprehensive network of partners, with different partners from each type of group.

Become a Trustworthy Guide for Your Customers

No matter what business you’re in, there are a lot of other businesses out there that do what you do. While a key part of standing out from the crowd is making sure you have a clearly defined value proposition, another thing that will keep customers coming back again and again is that they see you as more than just a provider of a good or service—they see you as a trustworthy partner and advisor.

One way to become a trusted partner is to tap into your network of fellow business owners who you yourself know and trust. When you’re able to suggest other service providers to your customers, it makes you seem like someone who’s in the know and who truly has your customers’ best interests at heart.

Let’s say, for example, that you own a rare used bookstore. A customer comes in and buys a first edition of a work by their favorite author, but then they want to be sure they’re going to be able to care for their new, beloved purchase. You should be able to provide them with a list of trusted partners—a bookbinder who can help restore the original leather cover, a vendor of special boxes for book storage, or an appraiser who can help set the sale price for another rare book in their collection.

These partners need to be people that you know and trust; you’ll do more harm than good if you suggest another business who does not do right by your customer. But if you do have a strong network of other worthy businesses who can provide a service that’s of real value to your existing customers, then you establish yourself as a trusted source of knowledge in your industry, and the next time your customer is looking for advice or to do business, they’ll be coming back to you.

Move Up the Hourglass

There is a lot of work that goes into winning over new business, particularly if you’re starting from scratch. For someone to decide to go with your company, there are four steps in the marketing hourglass before a new customer even makes their first purchase. And there is a tremendous amount of effort and money that can go into those first four steps.

For someone to come to know and like your business, there are marketing and advertising dollars to be spent. To establish trust, you need testimonials. For the trial phase, you need to create products or services that you’re willing to give away for free in hopes that it converts your prospect into an actual customer.

Establishing partnerships, however, allows you to leap over the heavy lifting associated with these steps. You don’t need to spend excessive amounts of money on advertising and marketing to prospects when you have a solid partnership network who will refer their customers to your business.

A prospect who has been referred to you by a business owner they already know, like, and trust, will have an inherent level of trust in your business. This allows you to jump ahead and move right to the try and buy portion of the hourglass.

Double Your Network Overnight

As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one, and that’s particularly true when building up referrals. You’ve worked hard to create repeat customers, and new customer acquisition is a costly endeavor. You know that other small business owners have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into creating their own roster of return clients. Why not come together with a fellow entrepreneur to double your network overnight?

When you establish a strategic or co-marketing partnership, suddenly you have access to another business owner’s entire rolodex. There’s no competitiveness there, because you offer products that are related but different, and so you’re willing and able to share your existing network with this other business owner.

Additionally, you can consider creating new marketing campaigns that are a joint effort. While you double your reach, you can also halve your costs by splitting advertising fees with your new partner. Running joint promotions for your business can allow you to catch the eye of your established customer base, their established customer base, plus those who are new prospects for both of you.

Referrals are the lifeblood of any business. Why go it alone on this important road to generating referrals when you could join forces with another like-minded business owner? Together, you can help each other to create a sustainable referral engine that will continue to benefit you both in the long term.

Weekend Favs October 27

Weekend Favs October 27 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Appcues Product Launch Planner – Create a customized timeline for rolling out your latest product.
  • Stripo – Build responsive, appealing email templates without coding knowledge.
  • Fireflies.ai – Record, transcribe and search all your phone or web conferencing calls.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

Transcript of Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business

Transcript of Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast

Transcript

This transcript is sponsored by our transcript partner – Rev – Get $10 off your first order

John Jantsch: You know, leadership might be the hardest job for an entrepreneur. You’ve got to decide that you want that job, you have to understanding that it’s an obligation, and let’s face it, it is hard work everyday. It’s not for the meek.

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, we are gonna talk about the leadership contract and everything that you need to do to make leadership a part of your culture.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by CloudPhone. You can get big-time, modern, virtual phone functionality at a fraction of the cost. In fact, keep listening, I’m gonna tell you how to get 50 percent off.

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Vince Molinaro. He is a business strategist, author of three books, including the book we’re gonna talk about today, The Leadership Contact: The Fine Print to Becoming an Accountable Leader. So Vince, thanks for joining me.

Vince Molinaro: Thanks so much John for the opportunity.

John Jantsch: So let’s … So often there are key words in the titles of books that need to be unpacked a little bit. Let’s unpack this word, “contract.” What exactly is a leadership contract?

Vince Molinaro: Well, it’s really came about from working with a lot of my clients globally who had been investing a lot in leadership development, but not see it translate into stronger leadership within their organizations. And they were kinda saying, “What’s going on?”

And as I spent time really thinking about it, I think what I believe we need to do is help leaders understand that when they take on a leadership role, they’ve actually signed up for something really, really important. And I kinda use the term, it’s a contract.

But, a lot of leaders aren’t really consciously aware that they’ve done it. And, in fact, what I think many of us have done either to get the promotion, to get the increase in pay, to get the better title, is it’s more the analogy of an online contract. Wen you kinda are online conducting any transaction that window pops up with all the terms and conditions, and if you’re like 93% of the people on the planet, as studies show, you just kinda click “agree” and never read what the contract actually entails and what you’re really held to.

So, the contract says essentially that. That there is a contract, you gotta be aware of it, and it comes with four terms and conditions that you’ve gotta understand and internalize as a leader.

John Jantsch: So before we get into some of those, you don’t pull many punches in this book. You call people out that leadership is broken in a lot of organizations. Is that because of some of the things you allude to? Is that society? Is that people really misunderstanding what it means to be a leader?

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. It’s, to me, that that’s what is the most fundamental question I find I have with my clients is what does it really mean to be a leader today? Because the role is more complicated because our world is more complicated. Leaders are under more pressure, more expectations.

So the role has gotten bigger, more challenging, but I don’t know if we’ve really kept up with our thinking about what is it that I need to do individually, or what do we need to collectively as a group of leaders, to really lead our company. And I think we’ve got some baggage from the old days when we used to promote people because they were good at something technical. Best sales person, best analyst, best accountant, best engineer, whatever. Or because they stuck around the longest. They had the most tenure. And we would move people into leadership roles for those reasons, but not because they were great leaders.

And so today, because the role is so demanding, I think we gotta pause and think a little bit about what have you signed up for.

So the book is pretty direct. It does challenge people in leadership roles. And yet what I have found in all my work, and my talks with leaders everywhere, is they’re really resonating with it because they acknowledge, yeah, it is a tough job. I can’t go into it lightly, I have to really pause, and I have to make sure it’s right for me. And if it’s not then I need to kind of find another way to add value to my company.

John Jantsch: Well, and I think that’s a real challenge because I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and people that get started because they have an idea, or an ability to do something. And they, in some ways, didn’t really sign up to be a leader. They don’t like that part of it and they’d rather they didn’t have to do that. But, in a lot of ways, that’s the job, right?

Vince Molinaro: Well, exactly right. And that’s sort of why the first term of a leadership contract is that it’s a deliberate decision that you have to make. And you have to know yourself well enough, know what the role demands, what the company demands of you, and then make sure that you’re up for it, right? Or make sure you’re really ready to do what’s necessary to really step up effectively.

So I think in those instances that that is a decision that one does need to make. But, you know, the expectation now … What’s interesting is, we’re expecting everyone to be a leader, even employees. I’ve got a lot of clients that say, “No, we need everyone to step up.”

So that expectation is being put across. So I don’t even know if we have that, “Wow, you know, I wanna do this, but not that.” I think that is true in some cases. But, I think we gotta understand that we’re expecting everyone to step up in more significant ways, because I think that’s what companies need to be successful today.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and sort of with that though, we need to sort of break down the idea of the hierarchal leadership I suppose. And if you’re talking about everyone needs to be a leader, I mean that’s like describing the culture, isn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, that’s a great point. You know, that’s the other variable here is that the model of leadership has really shifted and evolved. So, certainly when I started my career years ago, it was a very hierarchical model. And the leadership strength was concentrated at the top, and they were the ones that kinda came up with the strategy and communicated the orders. And everyone else just kinda did their jobs with their small teams, and that worked for a long time.

But, in today’s world, what our clients really say is, “The world is more complex. One or two years at the top isn’t enough. We need leadership to be strong in every seat, every chair in our organization.” And that’s I think because, as you say, I think that model of leadership has really evolved and changed, and keeps evolving and changing.

John Jantsch: Accountability is a huge theme in your book. And, you know, as I read the book I was kinda struck with the point that I don’t know gets made enough by a lot of people in that accountability works both ways. That the leaders have to be accountable, but then they have to really demand, or at least expect, accountability in return.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, I think that’s the other part of the leadership contract that is theme of so much of the books that are written, and there are some great books written about leadership, really try to map out here’s what the great leaders do. And that stuff is important to know and understand, but when you really come down to it I think this connection between accountability and leadership is fundamentally there.

Human beings, that’s what we do, right? We see someone who we define as a leader, we hold them to a higher standard of behavior, that’s the contract. And if they don’t live up to that standard of behavior, like we see leaders involved in scandal or corruption, or bad behavior, we get frustrated, disappointed, and we immediately ask for accountability. That person needs to account for their behavior.

So I think that connection has always been there. I don’t think it’s necessarily a new idea that I’m bringing forward. But, I think we have to make accountability now more front and center in leadership. Because as you say, those two things are really connected closely together. And I have to … In the leadership contract is my contract with myself to be an accountable leader, but then I have to set the tone for others and demand accountability in those that I work with and those that I lead.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and it’s a tough job as a leader, of course, because you can’t get away with the “Do as I say, not as I do.” And I’m sure many, many people have worked for organizations where that frustration was felt because we were supposed to be a customer-first company and boss does nothing but complain about the customers, and that makes it really tough to do your job, doesn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Well, I think we’re always looking for our leaders, or looking to our leaders, to set the tone. And then when they sort of come up with, you know, different rules for everyone else than themselves, then they’re not being accountable. And we can kinda sniff it out. And I’ve always found interesting little kids. When they’re four and five, they’re really good at calling out adults, right? They’re saying, “Wait a minute, that’s not fair. You’re asking me to do this, but you’re not doing it yourself.”

And so I think it’s, again, hard wired in us as humans that we kind of demand that accountability and we demand that integrity between this is what you’re saying we need to be doing, and yet you’re not doing it yourself. Well, that doesn’t make any sense. So I think that’s just hard wired in us.

John Jantsch: So, you’ve alluded to a couple of the elements. Make the decision, hard work ethic, we’ve talked about, obligation. The one that I think is really intriguing to me is your fourth element is community. So, I didn’t mean to steal your thunder there with the four things, but if you wanna lighten those up a little bit and then maybe expand on that idea of community.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, well as you said, the first term is you’ve gotta make that decision. That kind of visceral decision to define yourself as a leader and know that you’re kind of all-in and fully committed.

The second one is, it comes with obligation and you’ve gotta live up to those obligations because we expect a lot from our leaders. We’ve talked about that.

As you said, the third one is that it’s hard work and you’ve gotta have the resilience and resolve to tackle the hard work. And a lot of the hard work is around the people stuff, right? Giving candid feedback, managing poor performers, making tough decisions that might be unpopular for you but important for the organization and you must do it.

And then the third term says that leadership is a community. It gets back to what we talked about. It’s the model of leadership has evolved, you know? And while companies might still organize themselves as a hierarchy, how we get work done now is less vertical and much more horizontal. So we’re working together across lines of business, across departments, across functions more than ever before. And that’s because, I think, our problems are more complex that we have to solve. The customer issues need different perspectives and we’ve gotta bring the best minds together.

The Corporate Executive Board has done some research and surveying among leaders, and they’re reporting that collaboration has gone up 60% for most leaders day-to-day, and that more and more what I need to be successful is less on my own effort, it’s more on what does John do to make my team successful? What does Mary do to make my team successful? We’re much more dependent on others for our own success.

And so, as a result, the idea of building a strong leadership culture where leadership is not just strong at the top, but across the whole organization, becomes more and more critical. And so this idea of a community is really, I think, the model of the future and that’s really what I talk about.

And in many ways, that’s kinda the promise of the leadership contract is to say, “You gotta get your leadership act together,” and then you kinda commit to making the community strong. Do your part, but work with colleagues across the organization to execute the strategy, to be agile, to drive innovation, all those things that companies are really working hard to drive and be successful.

John Jantsch: You know, it’s funny. The last few years there have been a lot of management consultants charging a lot of money to train leaders how to work with this next generation of workers coming in, the millennials coming in. And I think what you just described is really that. That that’s actually just become a preferred way to work and so a lot of organizations have been caught off guard because they haven’t worked that way, and it’s been tough for them to attract or keep folks that want to work that way.

Vince Molinaro: Well, I think it’s a great point. I think what has also been missed, right, because you know the millennials have gotten a lot of attention. And I think, sometimes, there’s been what I call a lot of “millennial bashing,” right? We’ve been kinda pointing out that they’re not motivated, they’re not this, they’re not this, they’re not that. We’ve … My team and I have done global research and leadership accountability is a global problem. And it’s not as … Leadership is not as strong, nowhere near as strong, as we need it to be. And it’s in fact, quite mediocre.

So now, imagine a millennial coming into a company who has high aspirations to kinda wanna change the world, have a real impact, and now they’re working for a leader that is mediocre. Well, of course their motivation is gonna be affected. And what millennials have done that we don’t really, I think, fully appreciate is unlike Gen X and even Boomers, they’ve come in expecting to work for great leaders. And when they find a great leader, they’re actually fairly loyal. And, you know, they may not be there for 20 years, but you can really, you know, get a lot from them. And they’re prepared to roll up their sleeves, and be pretty loyal, and pretty committed, and do great work.

But, if they don’t find it what they do is they leave. And I think Gen X did a little bit of that, but Boomers just stuck it out no matter how bad it was. And so that perpetuated a lot of mediocrity, a lot of bad leadership, because we never were forced to pay attention to it.

I’m really curious to see, because you know the research just came out in the last few weeks from Bloomberg that says that next year, in fact, Gen Z, Generation Z, is actually going to outnumber millennials. And so as they start coming into the workplace, it’ll be curious to see what happens. Because to me, that generation actually should be called Generation L. They should be called the Leadership Generation because they’re coming in to organizations already with ideas and thinking around leadership, more leadership development, more expectations of leadership than any other of the previous generation. So it’ll be curious to see when they come in. They’ll just kinda, “What’s all this talk about leadership?” Because they don’t know any other way on how to behave. They know how to network, they know how to collaborate like millennials. So, I think that’s gonna be another change in our workplaces over the next decade as both millennials and Gen Z start making up more and more of our employee base.

John Jantsch: You know the telephone’s still a vital way to do business, but it’s changed—the technology has changed—and CloudPhone is the answer. It’s perfect for small business. It comes with local numbers, toll-free vanity numbers (like 1-800-duct-tape), you can send and receive text messages on your business line, works with any of the phones that you already own. And you can get a ton of other business features like call recording and conference calling and voicemail transcripts. And because you’re one of my listeners, I’m gonna get you a 50 percent off the small business plan forever deal. Just go to Cloudphone.com/ducttape.

So, if I’m listening to this and I’m a leader of any type, but certainly a lot of my listeners are running small businesses, are there some best practices for getting this thinking started? I mean, it’s tough. If you’ve run your company a certain way for 10 years, and then you read this book, and you go, “Okay, now I’ve got it.” It obviously becomes a process, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s not an overnight start.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think what’s really interesting is that’s where a small- to medium-sized enterprise actually has a lot of advantage over large companies. I’ve been in a couple of … I’ve been in three startups in my career and what I find is that oftentimes you just get naturally strong leadership because there’s an idea from the founder, from that entrepreneur or business model that’s really compelling. It just attracts people to say, “I wanna work with this person.”

And so, the early days are actually pretty easy and the best practices are always kinda in place, right? And I remember I joined a pharma company that was just starting out, a pharmaceutical company, and my first day on the job the head product manager came to me saying, “Okay, here’s how we work.” We had our pixelated and our five values, so you gotta live up to these five values. And how we worked everyday is you’re coming into a meeting, we’re not taking any notes, there’s no minutes, your job is to hear what’s going on, figure out what you need to do, and get it done. That’s how we go. Let’s go. And that was it.

And yes, there was everybody that was there in the early days were just so aligned and committed to those core ideas that we got … we grew really quickly until we hit about 150 employees. And as the research shows, that’s a funny number with human beings that once you hit that number then all of a sudden you start actually behaving like a pretty big company. Start getting a bit more bureaucratic, more process and rules get into place. You need that in order to hit your next level of growth.

And so the thing that I suggest in the book, I think, apply. The first thing is, you’ve gotta respond individually. You’ve gotta commit to being an accountable leader. Can really think about what that’s gonna look like. And then as an organization, you have to define what are the expectations we have of our leaders. What are the three, four, five things that we expect leaders to be and do in our company? You gotta really articulate that clearly so you can attract the people who are aligned to that vision. And then you can kinda start identifying who are the people demonstrating that so we can promote them. And that becomes important.

So it really gets down to that. In fact, our global research has found only about half of the companies have set clear expectations of their leaders. And so, if you do that as an entrepreneur, it already sets you apart from the rest.

And then the other thing that needs to happen is the opposite. So the expectations kinda set the vision of the future which inspires. But then, if you find leaders who are mediocre, who just are struggling interesting heir role and they’re not really stepping up, you gotta address that. You gotta address that. And what our research has also found, it only … One in five, about 20%, of the people who responded to our survey globally said that their organization had the courage to address the mediocre leaders. And so what they do is they say in conversations they say, “Well, we know who they are. We just don’t know how to do anything about it, so we’ll just leave them in their job.” And the second you leave a mediocre leader in their role, you’ve communicated to everybody that mediocrity is fine. You’re gonna tolerate a low bar. And then, that just puts you on a slippery slope which becomes a problem.

So, I think you gotta make that decision yourself to step up and be an accountable leader when you’re an entrepreneur and a business leader. And then, you gotta set those expectations for others. Create them for your company so you attract the best, those who really aligned already to your way of thinking. And that already will set you off a direction that will be pretty compelling and exciting for even a small company.

John Jantsch: And I think you just probably nailed one of the hardest parts of the hard work is that idea of something that feels confrontational. A lot of times it’s just easier to not have that hard conversation. And I agree with you 100% that that just sort of festers, doesn’t it?

Vince Molinaro: Well, it does. And what it does is it slows us down. So in the book, I talk about the hard rule of leadership that says that what we don’t often appreciate as leaders is that when we avoid some of tough things, and they’re legitimately tough, right? Running a successful company is not easy. There are tough things. But, when we avoid those tough things, and we know a lot of leaders do, we don’t fully appreciate how it makes us weak as leaders, weakens our teams, and weakens ultimately our company. But, if you have the courage to tackle those issues and make progress, you really drive greater success.

Because if you don’t address those things, they kinda weigh you down. They’re always kinda like you’re carrying this big boulder on your back and on your shoulders, and they just kinda wear you down. But, if you chip away at them, you kind of lighten the load.

John Jantsch: So let’s finish up today making the correlation between this type of accountability, this type of leadership contract, and improved performance. Certainly, your work has hopefully returned some correlation.

Vince Molinaro: Yeah, well in fact our global research has revealed that … We surveyed over 3,000 organizations worldwide and we asked in the survey to self-identify … the respondents to self-identify is your company … talk about your company’s performance over the last three years. And in the last three years, were you an industry leader, top quartile, were you above average, average, below average, or a lagger at the bottom quartile?

And when we analyzed the data it was fascinating. The industry leaders completely set themselves apart from everyone else. What was most surprising, even above average performing companies, which are pretty good, look more like poor performing companies than they actually look like industry leading companies. So when we cut the data to compare everyone else against the industry leaders, we found that the industry leaders are far more satisfied, over two times more satisfied, with the leadership accountability in their companies.

They’ve done a much better job, almost two and a half times better job, of setting clear expectations for their leaders. And, in turn, they have over two times more satisfaction, or confidence, that they have more leaders fully committed to their roles as leaders. So we’re really starting to see a strong connection between having really strong and accountable leaders in place, and a company’s performance. We’re gonna be doing more research to really delve into that, but already we’re starting to see that connection.

And in many ways, it makes perfect sense, right? If you have a group of highly mediocre leaders, they’re never gonna get you there, right? Just the math will never work. And so that’s, I think, what’s becoming more and more apparent is we pay a price for tolerating mediocrity.

Now, a lot of leaders don’t necessarily choose to be mediocre. They’re in conditions that are [inaudible] or the company hasn’t set clear expectation, or they’ve never been supported in their development. It’s not all on leaders. And that’s why I say there’s things leaders obviously must do, but the organization and the companies must support them as well. You need that dual responsibility.

But, that connection is very clear in my mind now between strong accountability among leaders and company performance.

John Jantsch: Speaking with Vince Molinaro, the author of The Leadership Contract. So Vince, where can people find out more about you and your work?

Vince Molinaro: Certainly they can reach out on LinkedIn. There’s also www.theleadershipcontract.com. And on there is really the information about the books, the information about the work I do, and a number of resources that people can download to learn more about how to bring these ideas into either their roles, into their teams, and into their organization.

John Jantsch: Great book, Vince. Thanks for joining us, and hopefully we’ll see you out there on the road someday.

Vince Molinaro: Well, thanks for making time, John. I really appreciate it and some great questions. I had a lot of fun. Thanks so much.

Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business

Building Accountable Leadership to Transform Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Vince Molinaro
Podcast Transcript

Vince MolinaroMy guest this week on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is Vince Molinaro. He is an expert on creating a healthy, resilient leadership culture, and is the author of the best-selling book The Leadership Contract: The Fine Print to Becoming an Accountable Leader.

Molinaro is the global managing director of leadership transformation at Lee Hecht Harrison and is also a regular keynote speaker at conferences and corporate retreats.

On today’s episode, we talk about the elements that make up great leadership, and how you can foster them in yourself and your organization.

Questions I ask Vince Molinaro:

  • What is a leadership contract?
  • Do we need to break down the hierarchical model of leadership?
  • What are the four terms of the leadership contract?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How leadership has evolved in our modern world.
  • Why accountability is a two-way street in the leadership contract.
  • How to begin the process of transforming your leadership approach.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Vince Molinaro:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by CloudPhone! CloudPhone is perfect for small businesses: it comes with a free local or toll-free vanity number, lets you send and receive text messages on your business line, and works with any phones you already own. Plus it includes a ton of other business features like a virtual receptionist menu, call recording, conference calling, and voicemail transcription.

To help support the show, CloudPhone is offering our listeners an exclusive deal. Sign up today and get 50 percent off CloudPhone’s SMB plan forever. Just go to CloudPhone.com/ducttape.

Five Tips That Make Asking for Referrals Less Intimidating

Five Tips That Make Asking for Referrals Less Intimidating written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Asking for referrals can be tough. It can feel like you’re being pushy or imposing on someone’s time. But in reality, the majority of happy customers are more than willing to give a referral when asked.

While the first hurdle in asking for referrals is getting over your own insecurities or mental blocks associated with the process, here are five additional tips that make asking for referrals less intimidating.

1. Provide Great Service

This one might seem obvious, but the first step to feeling good about asking for a referral is providing the best service possible. Of course you’re going to feel sheepish approaching a customer who had a less-than-stellar experience with your company. But if you are honest, responsive, and helpful from start to finish, then why shouldn’t your customer be excited to pass your name along to others?

We’re all human and mistakes do happen. There will be times when a customer has a sub-par interaction with your business. That doesn’t mean that you should run away and consider that customer a lost cause. If you are proactive about reaching out, apologizing, and asking for a second chance to wow them (and then delivering on your promise the next time), you might just create an even more loyal customer. People appreciate honesty and businesses who are willing to go the extra mile, so when you make that effort—even if it’s after an initial mess-up—you should feel confident asking for a referral after you’ve proven your mettle the second time.

2. Start a Conversation

Sometimes it can feel difficult to ask for a referral because it feels like you’re selfishly asking for a favor out of the blue. One way to mitigate this feeling is to establish a meaningful conversation with someone before you ask them for a referral. Send them a congratulatory note when you see on LinkedIn that they reached a milestone in their career. Forward them an article that you think would be of interest to them. Donate to a Kickstarter related to their business’s newest product launch. There are lots of simple ways that you can show support for someone that will make asking them for a referral further down the line feel like more of a part of a conversation rather than a demand coming out of nowhere.

Of course, there is an art to doing this. You don’t want to make a grand gesture of kindness and then turn right around and ask for a referral. No one wants to feel like they’re being bribed into saying something nice about you and your business. But if you show a genuine interest in what someone is doing in their business life, they’ll feel even more open to saying something genuinely kind about you when you ask.

3. Provide Various Ways to Gather the Referral

It’s always best to ask someone for a referral directly; people are far more likely to refer when they’re asked than they are to go out of their way to do it on their own (even if they had a positive experience with your company). However, you want to be sure you’re making it easy for customers to refer you, whether you’re asking them directly or not.

Include a link to sites where customers can provide a review (whether that’s Yelp, Facebook, or a tool like Grade.us) in your email signature. Customers who see this reminder each time they communicate with you might be more likely to review you when they have a spare minute if they’re presented with the opportunity to do so on more than one occasion. You can also create a “refer a friend” button or page on your website. This makes it easy for you to collect referrals from customers by sending them a link to the page, while it also allows customers you haven’t reached out to directly to still submit a referral if they feel so inclined.

4. Create Partnerships

One of the best ways to generate referrals is by creating partnerships with other business owners. They’re facing the same struggles as you when it comes to generating referrals, so it’s easier to ask them for referrals. They understand how intimidating it can be to ask customers to pass your name along, and so they’ll be all the more willing to do so for you and your business (and you will be willing to do the same for them).

Work to find businesses that are providing a good or service that makes sense with the work your company does. If you own a shoe store, talk to the cobbler down the street. If you’re a DJ for weddings and events, speak with the local party equipment rental company.

Asking a fellow business owner for referrals is not only a bit less intimidating than asking a customer, it also establishes a steady flow of referrals. Business owners will continue to come across prospects who are in need of your services, whereas past customers might only meet someone every once in a while who’s looking for the good or service you provide.

5. Be Specific In Your Ask

Some people are hesitant to ask for referrals when it seems like a broad ask: “If you know anyone who needs what I do, let me know!” One way to counter this is to do a little research.

Let’s say you’re a website designer who already has a list of local businesses you’d like to target. You’ve looked at their sites and have some specific thoughts on how to strengthen each of their designs to help them grow their business.

Go onto LinkedIn and see if any of your current clients have connections at these businesses. If so, you then have a specific referral ask that you can make. Reach out to your current client and say, “I see that you know the marketing manager at Company X. I’ve been wanting to get in touch with someone over there about their website design; I’ve got some concrete ideas about how to organize their site that could help grow their sales. Would you be willing to put me in touch with your connection?”

This serves a few purposes. It shows to your current client that you’re serious about your business, know your stuff, and do your research. This makes them feel more at ease in referring you to their connection. It also makes you feel more empowered in your ask. You know exactly what you want, and you’re confident enough in the services you provide to be unafraid to ask for that referral.

Asking for referrals can be scary. But if you provide excellent service to your customers, there’s no need for you to feel shy. People are excited to spread the word about a great business, and if you’re able to drum up the courage to ask for referrals, you’ll be sure to get great new leads for your efforts.

Weekend Favs October 20

Weekend Favs October 20 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Carrot – Ensure important messages from company leadership don’t get lost in the shuffle.
  • Personably – Create an incredible on-boarding process for your new hires.
  • Jotform PDF Editor – Convert data from forms into clean, elegant PDF documents.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape