What’s Your Secret Weapon?

I have a secret weapon that I use to market my business. It’s so secret, in fact, that sometimes I forget I have it and don’t take full advantage of it.

Is it my superior intellect? No, but thank you.

Perhaps it’s the band of merry elves who live in my attic and attend to my every need? Still a pipedream, I’m afraid.

No, my friend, I’m referring to my relationships and, in particular, my natural tendency towards staying in touch with people.

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I don’t know why I like emailing, talking on the phone, meeting for coffee, sending texts and just interacting in general, but I do. If I could do nothing but that all day and still make a living, I would.

But here’s the secret weapon part: This kind of decidedly non-strategic, random connecting invariably leads to positive outcomes for my business:

Invitations to speak, new newsletter subscribers, word of mouth buzz, requests to reprint things I’ve written, referrals and, without question, the majority of my clients.

All the result of simply keeping in touch for the sake of keeping in touch.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that while most solo professionals are quick to acknowledge the value of networking and staying connected, it’s almost always done from the perspective of, “How can this guy help me?”

For many people, it seems, it’s not really about building relationships, it’s solely about getting clients. One is simply a means to the other.

I don’t approach it that way. Not because I’m so wonderful (although I am good-looking), it’s just that I keep in touch with the people I like keeping in touch with.

The funny thing is though – and this is the part that’s particularly relevant to your own marketing – somehow, by not trying to predict before the fact, “Who’s most valuable to my business?” … I end up with more business:


One of my current clients is a former client who I happened to have coffee with last summer.

Another is an old work colleague of a guy who was in one of my classes two years ago whom I’ve kept in touch with.

A third is my wife’s old boss who’s now working as a solo and whom I’ve gotten together with for lunch and coffee for years.
Interesting, don’t you think? Somehow, by focusing on the relationship aspect of networking – as opposed to just the business goal of “keeping my name in front of people” – I generate more business.

And it’s not just because most of my clients are individuals, rather than companies. I spent my first 10 years as a solo with companies (some of them huge) as clients and all the business came to me the same way: Real relationships with people inside these companies.

Here’s the bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with being strategic about who you know and how you spend your time. It’s just that in my experience, it’s really, really hard to tell beforehand which connections will ultimately be most valuable.

And so as we begin 2015, I have one simple recommendation: Stop chasing clients, start chasing relationships.

Not only will you have more work, you’ll have a whole lot of new friends too.

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19 thoughts on “What’s Your Secret Weapon?

  1. Sharon Brodin

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for a GREAT reminder of the value of other people in our lives. I needed this today not just for my business, but for my life!
    Staying in touch with people doesn’t come naturally for me like it does for you. But it’s something I can get better at as I’m intentional with it.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Sharon!
      I’m glad it hit the spot for you today. And I’m well aware that this isn’t natural for a lot of people. It’s a basic element of my marketing approach and find I’m often encouraging clients (a lot) to just reach out and connect. The good news is that nobody is ever disappointed to know that someone was thinking of them, particularly when it’s an out of the blue, long ago contact who suddenly appears to say hello!
      Michael

      Reply
  2. Angela Fischer

    Love this! It validates me spending time connecting for no reason, because there is a reason….you just don’t always know it at the time. In leading a large team, I think this also applies to building relationships with your direct reports. Understanding who they are, what’s important to them and paying attention to the details that matter to them enhances your relationship. In turn, this also makes it much easier when you have to have the difficult conversations too.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Totally agree, Angela. I find myself having to quiet my inner voice sometimes when it tries to suggest that I’m wasting time by connecting. But when I look at nearly every opportunity that has come to me with my business it’s the result of some random, human connection. Like I said, a secret weapon!
      Michael

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Sharon Brodin copywriting: Michael Katz on Relationship Marketing

  4. Charles Alexander

    I have a few secret weapons.

    1. Three adorable kids. Using a story about a crazy thing one of them has done almost always sparks/renews a conversation with someone to tell me how their kids are doing, something crazy they did as a kid, or the fact that after hearing my story they are glad they don’t have kids.

    2. LinkedIn. Easiest tool in the world for letting someone know you want to get coffee and catch up with them.

    3. X-Ray vision.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m right there with you on #1 and #2, Charles, but quite envious of #3! Thanks for writing, happy 2015. Michael

      Reply
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  6. Rick Siderfin

    Thanks Michael, great post as always.

    Our field of contacts, and the relationship we can build with them, constitute our own personal “acres of diamonds” – available to us all the time, but so easily overlooked…

    Reply
  7. Edgar Valdmanis

    Michael,
    Spot on! You already know that we share this secret tool. Relationships or Networking, same thing. And LinkedIn is the best tool, but it´s only a tool. LinkedIn without the true relationships as a foundation is…. close to spam. Thnaks for another great post

    Reply
  8. Bill Sell

    Great article, as usual, Michael! This networking in many cases does become an opportunity for ‘paying it forward’ and usually is someone needing a connection to/with someone I might know or someone else one degree removed. These are easy to do, especially if you’ve been staying in touch with people and good things do indeed come back. Solo professionals need to build time into the calendar weekly or monthly to do more of this…thanks for prodding us along!

    Bill
    PS: the penguin in you enjoying this now finally freezing cold weather in Metro Boston?

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Bill,
      I think the idea of building these into a calendar is a great idea. Too easy to push back for other, “more important” things otherwise.
      And yes, we penguins love the cold (especially those of us with ice skating rinks in the backyard!).
      Michael

      Reply
  9. Evelyn Starr

    This is my FAVORITE part of being a solo. Early on I’d get looks from my those close to me — was that dinner with a friend really a business expense? But when that friend started referring me to prospects that became clients, the quizzical looks disappeared.

    It’s also a wonderful justification for pursuing a relationship with a new connection just because you like them. Makes doing business much more fun.

    Reply
  10. Jim Lauria

    Michael,
    In line with your great post, at the start of 2015 my secret weapon is combining two of Seth Godin’s ideas:
    Remembering that marketing is about conversations + making an exhaustive list of all those people with whom I’d like to engage.

    Reply

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