December 21, 2010


3 networking tips
What do you say at networking events when you have mere seconds to speak. You might be addressing one person, a table or the entire room.

This year, I went to many networking events and found these three tips work.
  1. content: say something worthwhile
  2. sizzle: make it memorable
  3. contact: stay in touch
The core of successful networking is helping others without expecting a reward. Let's proceed with that mindset.

Content: Say Something Worthwhile

We all have competitors, including the client's inertia. You probably look, sound and dress like your competitors. You may even sell identical products or have similar services.

There's an easy way to get the clay for your message.

Ask your colleagues, clients, friends and family how they would describe you to others. You may find they don't understand what you do well enough to refer you. Help them. You may find insights too.

Don't expect consensus because people see the way they are. You want a message that's tailored to your clients.

Sizzle: Make It Memorable

Now you're ready to mold your clay.

If your message gets forgotten, it won't get passed on. Practice and ask for suggestions from the people above. A clever phrase may help unless your competitors can also use it. Avoid clich├ęs about "taking business to the next level" or your "personal touch". Also ditch words like "honesty", "integrity" and "trust".

You aren't a parrot. Allow your words to evolve and change to suit the situation.

Stumped? You'll find examples of memorable messages in Made To Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Amazon unaffiliated link).

Contact: Stay In Touch

Now it's time to put your clay creation into a kiln to see if it's built to last.

Maintaining connections is easier than ever, thanks to LinkedIn. If you made a reasonable impression and have a good profile, the people you met will probably agree to connect to you.

After an event. I take the business cards I received
  • write the date, name of the event and any personal notes on the back
  • scan the cards with my still-amazing scanner
  • shred them
  • reach out on LinkedIn
Those who accept your invitation are now part of your network. You maintain contact through a combination of status updates, phone calls, emails and personal meetings. Congratulations, networking master!

This is the final post of 2010.

The best to you and yours during the holidays.
May your 2011 be as nice as heaven!


PS Be sure to bring plenty of business cards when you network.

December 14, 2010

HOW WOULD YOU SELL SOAP (2010 edition)?

gavel 528x362
Would you like to spend the evening discussing flaws in the Wills of a couple killed in an accident with a tractor trailer?

I did at the Estate Planning Council of Mississauga yesterday, along with advisors in accounting, donating, insuring, investing and law.

For this case study, estate lawyers were the primary participants. As an experiment, I wondered if I could pick one to add to the Taxevity referral network.


There were four main unknowns
  1. Skill: Since I didn't know their backgrounds, I couldn't pick the equivalent of the skilled "top-of-the-class Harvard grad"
  2. Safety: Since I didn't know much about law firms, I couldn't pick the equivalent of the safe "no one gets fired for buying IBM".
  3. Expertise: Since I don't know how difficult the work was, I couldn't tell how much skill was needed. Maybe the case study was the equivalent of The Cat In The Hat --- entertaining but elementary.
  4. Value: Since I didn't know how much they charge, I couldn't gauge the relative value for the money.
The participants made reasonable points. What if the better lawyers were silent, absent, or in another group?

The Deciding Factor

There was no clear winner. Maybe you're great at picking lawyers. What about investment advisors? I spoke to three. Again, the same problem of picking one arose.

Do you see the difficulty your potential clients face in choosing you and referring you?


Your clients usually have reasonable substitutes for your product or services. How do you set yourself apart in a way that matters to them? This question keeps arising.

In 2007, we asked how would you sell soap? What are you doing differently for today's soap buyers?

If your potential clients can't tell what's different about your offering, they see a commodity and buy based on factors like convenience and price. Can you blame them?


PS Maybe we'll have a 2013 edition if people still buy soap then.

December 7, 2010


crystal ball
If you've used apps on your smartphone, you probably love them.

An app lets you do something simple fast and very well. For example, access your calendar, read email, view contacts, take notes, get LinkedIn, check the weather, calculate, store passwords and read ebooks.

An app is an extreme form of specialization and a path to success. Not everyone agrees. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie expects the era of smartphone apps to "pass real quick".


Outlandish statements wipe away credibility and reek of desperation. Would RIM bash apps if they had 300,000 apps downloaded 6.5 billion times like Apple does? An app is a vote of approval by the developers who built them and the clients who downloaded them. Today RIM started accepting apps for the forthcoming PlayBook tablet.

The Challenges At RIM

The Blackberry Torch hasn't set sales records and is already heavily discounted. The PlayBook tablet is the next big hope for RIM but it's hardly a breakthrough in the world of the iPad and now Android devices.
To date, RIM has been less than forthcoming about the PlayBook. That's a bad sign. Here are 10 random observations.
  1. no pricing at the time of the announcement in September 2010 (now estimated to be under $500)
  2. no mention of battery life, an iPad strength (here's the press release)
  3. unable to launch before Christmas 2010
  4. unproven 7" screen when the iPad has proven there's demand for a 10" display (Android devices also chose 7")
  5. supports Flash which is good … but crashes my Chrome and FireFox browsers despite continual updates
  6. not clear whether the Playbook can be used without a Blackberry
  7. new operating system may have growing pains (QNX Neutrino)
  8. lack of apps (the Blackberry is built for business but the LinkedIn app was built for iOS first and Android second)
  9. Android competitors are already on the market
  10. iPad 2 will soon follow the PlayBook launch and set new standards

The Winner

How are you competing? If your value proposition is innovation, you face hurdles when competitors take the lead and gather momentum.

In app popularity, Neilsen shows that RIM is the laggard. That's a bad sign. For years, the Blackberry was the highend smartphone. Now the iPhone and Android are strong while RIM is falling. I wish RIM success with the PlayBook.


December 1, 2010


I (heart) myself 500x460
This year, I've focused on helping the philanthropic world by applying the first half of the fifth habit of highly effective people: seek first to understand and then to be understood.

The Nonprofit Management Association at the Schulich School of Business hosted the Philanthropic Leadership Workshop on Black Friday. The speakers were
  • Marcel Lauzierre, President, Imagine Canada
  • Jon Duschinsky, author of “Philanthropy in a Flat World”
  • Susan Storey, Vice President, KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.)
  • Kevin Donavan, investigative journalist, Toronto Star
Each had a different perspective and made thought-provoking points.

Loving yourself and what you do is fine unless stakeholders feel cheated. You'll see that charities face major marketing challenges. You may notice parallels with your own industry too.

Marcel Lauzierre, President, Imagine Canada

Marcel identified three major concerns for the charitable sector.
  1. There's public demand for an easy way to rank charities. The MoneySense Charity 100 is considered simplistic, but a start.
  2. The CBC reported that $762 million of donations went to private fundraisers from 2004-2008 and 869 readers left comments. In a poll, 96% said it's very important to know where donations go.
  3. There's a proposal to cap compensation for fundraisers (Bill C-470) — unique in the world.
We're not talking about tobacco here. We're talking about an industry committed to doing good. Yet the demands for transparency and accountability haven't been addressed. That's an invitation for scrutiny and intervention by politicians.

Is your industry proactive in satisfying the demands of stakeholders?

Susan Storey, Vice President, KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc)

Here are the four minimum requirements for fundraising today:
  1. Be compelling: have a sharp, relevant case for giving
  2. Be respectful: the donors are individuals
  3. Be flexible: allow different ways of giving (could be time or referrals)
  4. Be patient: cultivating relationships and getting decisions takes time (also true if you're using the ORDER sales model)
Does your business have the same issues?

Jon Duschinsky, author of Philanthropy in a Flat World

There's so much choice. France has 1.2 million charities. You probably have many competitors too (including client indifference).

Can you organize your business so that the more good you do, the more money you make? If so, you've got a strong incentive to do good. Here's a great example.

How can you argue with a business model like Tom's Shoes One for One? There's appeal even if the shoes aren't comfortable.

Jon, the "Dr. Who of Fundraising", is a powerful, engaging presenter. He'd be a great speaker for TEDx — maybe even TED.

Kevin Donovan, Investigative Journalist, Toronto Star

Kevin has investigated over 100 charities. Thirty lost their licenses.

He identified four problems with charities
  • too many (over 80,000)
  • too easy to start
  • too little accountability
  • too expensive to run (high costs)
There's no umbrella group that publicly addresses misconduct. There's no organization to which charities must belong (the closest is Imagine Canada). Is Kevin a hero or villain? After he spoke, I'd say hero.

Are you part of an organization that supports your industry? Perhaps a board of trade or industry organization?


PS Paul Nazareth is organizing a Meetup for Philanthropic Linchpins on December 7, 2010 in Toronto. Last time we were featured in Linchpin Magazine.