Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Go Read A Book

I am amazed at how many professional adults do not read. Not that they do not know HOW to read, but rather that they choose not to read. I read one time that over 50% of college graduates never read another book. Huh? Not even a novel? Ever? How can this be true?

At a previous employer I was talking with one of my superiors who was very successful in his role with this fortune 100 company. He had spent over 25 years in the industry, and knew everything he needed to succeed in his job. In a conversation one day I sighted an example from a book I was reading at the time, which caused him to interupt by saying, "You often talk about things from your 'reading'....how many books do you read in a year?" I told him that I have read, on average, between 15-25 books every year for the past 15 years. He was stunned. Dumbfounded in fact. His response left me just as shocked and in disblief..... He told me that he had not read that many books in his lifetime.

Can it be that someone in a professional career could have no interest in reading books on subjects that could deeply impact their businesses future? I have found reading to be an unmatchable tool that has helped me grow in countless areas of my life.

How about you? What was the last book that you read? Many people I talk to say that they do not have the time to read books, newspapers or trade journals, siting that their lives are just too busy. It is not that they do not have time, it is that they do not create the time. I discovered years ago that by reading a lot of material I could expand my knowledge and stay up with current trends and events. To not be well read can easily hinder your career path. If you are reading this blog, my guess is that you want to expand your business success. If that is true, then you must decide to become an avid reader.

To accomplish this I suggest you get up thirty minutes early every morning and read a book or the newspaper. Anyone can find thirty minutes in their day for reading.


Books are the most intemidating to read because they have a lot of pages. Many people (myself included) hated to read books in high school and college, and have thus decided to just avoid them whenever possible. However, books also contain great advice and countless bits of knowledge. If you would read one business-oriented book every month, in ten years that would be one hundred books. Just think of the advantages you would might have from the knowledge in those books that your competition would most likely not possess. This is a very small investment of time to get that kind leg up on the rest of your peers.

Magazines and Trade Journals:

The complaint I hear about periodicals is that they arrive too often and begin to pile up. Once the stack becomes too high, people feel that they could never make the time to get caught up on all the reading. So their answer is to not subscribe to magazines. If your in box is overflowing with such reading, I suggest you purge it. Throw away any magazine or journal that is more than a month old. The next step is to make it a habit skim every new publication that arrives and either immediately read the articles that interest you or flag them to read later. Another good suggestion is to get a co-worker to review half of the incoming magazines, and you flag the important ones and trade stacks. This can streamlines the amount or skimming you need to do to find the relevant articles.

The Daily Newspaper:

You should read your local daily newspaper and/or one of the national daily papers every day. And not just the business section! You need to read the local and national news, politics, sports and entertainment as well. Why? So that you can be informed on current affairs in case you are in a conversation with someone who brings up any variety of topics. In a business setting people could talk about the outcome of the French vote on the European Union Constitution or the latest winner on "American Idol". In either case, you will appear uninformed if you do not know the basics of these topics. (yes, you do need to the pop culture topics, too....sorry).

Start today and make reading a priority in your life, you will be glad you did. You may want to start with my new book, which will be released in July 2005. More info at www.thomsinger.com.

Have a great day....and read something, will ya?.

Thom Singer

Friday, May 27, 2005

Coffee With A Friend

One reality I have discovered about a hectic career is that it is very hard to find the time to keep up with your friends and other business acquaintances in your network. Meanwhile, having a network of people is very important to your future. And yet, the more people you come to know and respect, the less time there is to spend quality time with any of them. To keep the relationships thriving you must make the effort. I have found a great way to do this is to grab a cup of coffee in the morning and just sit and "BS" with another person about their business ventures, personal life and other topics of mutual interest.

This morning I met my friend Christa Kleinhans at Starbucks. Christa owns a successful marketing consulting firm called Launch Marketing, which she founded three years ago (www.launch-marketing.com). Before starting her own business she was the local Marketing Manager for a major venture capital fund. A downturn in the economy found her looking for new employment, and rather than compromise in a tough job market, she rolled up her sleeves and went out on her own. While most start-up businesses fail in the first year, Christa's company got off to a good start. She has now crossed the three year mark, and continues to thrive. She does this through a combination of hard work (she does a GREAT job for her clients), and her commitment to expand her reputation and network. Next week she is announcing a new name for her growing business, and I look forward to watching her company launch to new heights.

It is not only a good idea to take the time to stay connected to people in your network, it is also a lot of fun. I had a delightful time catching up with my friend and hearing about the new things she is doing in her life. It is also inspiring to see a local entrepreneur who is living the dream of building a business.

Look at your own network of personal and business friends. Whom do you need to spend time with? You are not too busy! Everyone can carve out one hour to have coffee or lunch (I am also a fan of Happy Hour!). Quit making excuses and just pick up the phone and schedule the appointment with someone in your network. You will be glad you did.

For more reasons on why it is important to make, grow and keep your business relationships, read my new book: Some Assembly Required (available later this summer). Available at www.thomsinger.com

Have a great day.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Toastmasters. Are you a good speaker?

The number one fear that people have is giving a speech in front of an audience. Yes, the fear of dying comes in second to public speaking in polls. Yet, if you want to advance your career and further your reputation, being able to give a speech is one of the most important skills that you can master.

If you are among those who would rather die than give a talk...I have two words for you: Toastmasters International. While this organization was founded in 1924, I am constantly amazed at how many professionals have never heard of Toastmasters. According to their website, www.toastmasters.org, the mission of Toastmasters is as follows:

The Mission of Toastmasters International
Toastmasters International is the leading movement devoted to making effective oral communication a worldwide reality.

Through its member Clubs, Toastmasters International helps men and women learn the arts of speaking, listening and thinking - vital skills that promote self-actualization, enhance leadership, foster human understanding, and contribute to the betterment of mankind.
It is basic to this mission that Toastmasters International continually expand its worldwide network of Clubs, thereby offering ever-greater numbers of people the opportunity to benefit from its programs.

The Mission of the Club
The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are many clubs to be found in every major city around the world. Toastmasters International has a presence in the United States and 90 countries around the world. There are currently over 200,000 active Toastmasters. Each club is made up of about 20 - 30 people and meets weekly. There are clubs that meet at breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are even clubs that exist inside companies.

Joining Toastmasters is the best business decision I made in my career. I have been called on to speak at many business events and have regularly moderated panel discussions at conferences and other events. I encourage you to explore this organization as a way to enhance your future.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Ripple Effect

I read a book yesterday called The Ripple Effect by first time author, Steve Harper. The book was a great blend of research and personal stories on the "how, what and why" of building a professional network of contacts in your business and personal life. The author's premise is that every time you throw a stone in the water, it causes ripples. These ripples continue outward, making larger and larger circles....eventually engulfing the whole pond. Once these ripples hit the edge, then they come back to you. His theory is that you never know how your actions will effect other people or yourself....but it is clear that positive actions can have amazing results.

He is right. We cannot achieve greatness in our business or personal lives without interactions with other people. By shifting our focus from ourselves to helping others achieve their goals, great things can will back to us. My favorite line in the book says that the "most selfish thing a person can do is to be selfless." Doing things to help others will have returns on your own life in ways that you cannot imagine.

His book is available through Amazon.com and on his website (www.therippleeffectbook.com). I suggest you read it and follow his advise. If you want to improve your life and build a network, take action...NOW!! Be the stone that is thrown in the water and watch how those ripples can change the world.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

PS - My own book on the subject of networking will be released by New Year Publishing in July 2005. Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships can be preordered on my website : www.thomsinger.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Networking Helps Get Soldier A New Job

I have always been a big proponent of having a professional network of contacts. While some people do not understand why someone should invest the time and money in networking, I know that it is worth the effort. I believe that many good things come out of interacting with other business people. Sometimes these benefits are immediate, other times it may take time to come to fruition. Sometimes the pay off for me is evident, but often times the rewards do not even directly impact my life....but can have a huge impact for other people.

About a year ago I met with the husband of a co-worker who was in the United States military. He was about to ship out for a tour of duty in Iraq, and would not return until the following spring. Upon his return, he would be leaving the army and would need to find his first civilian job since graduating college. Matt was a sharp young man and a dedicated soldier. Newly married, he was obviously concerned about finding a job upon his return. We talked briefly about his options and I promised to offer any assistance once he got home from the war.

Matt returned safely and completed his obligation to his country. His wife mentioned that he was home, and would soon be seeking employment, and again I offered to help. At the time I figured I could offer some advice and maybe introduce him to some of the people in my network. I had no idea if I would be able to help him out in any direct manner.

This is where "networking" comes in to play. In early March I had coffee with my friend Michael. Michael is an entrepreneur who knows a lot of people. While at Starbucks, a friend of Michael's, Rod, came in for his morning latte. He joined us in our conversation. We were talking about general stuff, and at some point I casually mentioned that I knew a soldier who was back from Iraq and looking for a job. Rod mentioned a friend that worked for a national recruiting company which specializes in helping military officers transition to careers in the private sector. He gave me the person's name and phone number and I passed this information along to Matt's wife, Lisa.

At this point I was out of the loop. A month later I changed jobs. I had not crossed paths with Matt or Lisa until this morning. When I saw my former co-worker I asked her how Matt was doing with his job search. As it turned out, he did call the recruiter that Rod had told me about, and had scheduled a meeting. The guy was so impressed with Matt that he hired him to work for the recruiting company!

So there you have it... Networking works! Everything I believe to be true about how having a network should operate came through in this case.

Wait, you ask,.....how did networking "work" if nothing came out of it for me? First, for networking to be powerful you have to make it all about helping the other person. Therefore it did "work". Second, what a great feeling I having knowing that I helped, in some small way, a former soldier find his new career. I view those who serve our country in the military as true heroes. To help out a hero? That is a great feeling. So in the end, he has a job, and I feel great for having been of assistance. Win-win.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ready, Set, Go

Many people in sales and marketing jobs spend too much time on preparation. We make plans, set goals, conduct market research and study the competition. We conduct client surveys and write detailed plans that, if executed on properly, would lead us to unparalleled successes. While all this planning is imporant, it is not action. It is taking action that leads to us to getting our companies higher recognition in the business community. It is execution on our plans that brings more revenue.

I am not saying that you should not plan. If you tried to build a house without a set of blueprints, the final product would be a mess. It would be condemmed before you got the opportunity to move in. You have to have a plan and you need to pour a strong foundation, but after that is done, you must get to work wacking nails with a hammer in order to see real progress.

We are all guilty of spending too much time on the internet trying to understand a prospect's industry or doing other types of planning activities. My suggestion is that you take at least one day every week and make it "Action Day". This can be any day of the week. You can waste time rationalizing why Monday is not a good day for this, or why Wednesday would be superior, but that is just another excuse to avoid taking action . The truth is that we can over annalyze "Action Day" just as we can every other activity in our work life. This is not something that you need to invest more time in the preparation. This is about doing. To steal a line for Nike...."Just Do It!"

Why not make today "Action Day"? Clear your schedule, get off the computer and just decide to take action in your marketing and business development goals. Regardless of your industry or job title, make today that day where you will go out and accomplish something. Anything.

If you are in sales, decided that today you are going to make thirty calls to clients and prospects? Would anything positive come from that? I know a salesperson named "Dale" (I am changing his name because to this day he spends so much time surfing the web, that he will probably run across this blog) who would need about seventy hours of preparation time to make thirty calls. He seems to invest three hours researching before he ever picks up the phone. My guess is that he would have more success if he simply made the calls.

If you are in a marketing role, why don't you use today to complete some of those projects that have been piling up on your desk. Get going on the re-write for the website or the new product brochure. If you cannot do it yourself, use today to finally hire the freelance writer and get the project moving. Mary, a marketing director, always has about three projects in her "to do" file that never seem to get rolling. If she just got them started, she could see them to completion.

For a PR professional, make today the day you contact business writers that cover your industry and pitch your story ideas, or simply get to know them better. Why not find out what the criteria is for submitting guest articles to a business journal. You know you have been planning to do this, so do it today.

Tomorrow will be here soon enough, make today count. Then schedule a day each week that has no room for planning, and only time for action

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Friday, May 20, 2005

Marketing Through A Corporate Trauma

The below is from the May 2005 issue of Professional Marketing Magazine (www.pmforumna.org).

Marketing Through A Corporate Trauma
by Thom Singer

There will come a time when your world will be turned upside down by some sort of bad news. It may not be the sort of corporate scandals that have topped the news in the past few years (if you are lucky). Rather it will be something as simple as having a group of respected professionals announce that they are leaving your firm to join the competition. Such a departure, or other event, can fill the hallways with gossip, uncertainty and despair. None of which are good for your efforts to build and maintain the external brand of your company.

Nobody likes to have to deal with traumatic events; however this can also be a time for you to shine. There are five steps that your firm should take immediately when facing corporate trauma.

Call a Strategy Meeting. If the leaders of the firm do not round up the troops to discuss the situation and develop a plan of action, then you need to suggest the idea. The worst thing your firm can do is to waste time by doing nothing. Your clients, staff and local business community are watching to see how you respond to the bad news. Everyone who oversees a team or practice area should be involved. All professionals who have direct contact with clients should either be present or immediately informed of what was discussed.

Never Talk Badly about Those Who Departed. It is human nature to find the negative in those who caused harm to your team. But to discuss their shortcomings publicly or even inside the office will make you seem unprofessional. Remember, the person was your co-worker the day before. If they were so bad, why were you affiliated with them in the first place? The best response is to simply say that you are “disappointed by their departure, but your focus is on the future of your clients and the firm.” Add nothing beyond that.

Develop “Talking Points.” This helps keep everyone focused on the approved message when speaking to the press or members of the public. Assign one person who has been “media trained” to be the spokesperson for any inquiries from reporters. Make sure that everyone in the firm knows not to talk to the press themselves, but rather to direct the media to the spokesperson. Reporters are usually fair, but you should rehearse for the possible harsh questions that will come.

If Necessary, Bring In An Expert. If the crisis garners a lot of media attention, you should consider hiring a public relations firm. There are both national and local PR firms that specialize in helping professional services firms manage their communications both during good times and in times of crisis. Get acquainted with one or more experts now, rather than waiting until you are in the middle of a traumatic situation.

Stay Positive in Your Internal and External Marketing. As a marketing and business development professional it is imperative that your keep a positive attitude both inside and outside the firm. People will be looking to you to help set the tone and direction of the firm’s message. You cannot let co-workers, clients or others in your community see anything other than a bright outlook. Save your pessimism for those few minutes a day you are alone. To the rest of the world appear confident in your firm’s ability to overcome any situation.

By following these steps you can help be part of the solution, and not part of the problem, for your firm in its hour of need.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Yippy !!! We're Doing A Trade Show!!!


"Hooray, I can't wait to have that booth at the next trade show!" These are words that marketing professionals rarely hear from lawyers, executives and other professionals in service firms. The thought of spending one, two or three days standing in an exhibit hall trying to garner the attention of potential clients has most executives longing for an extended visit to the dentist. Those with any seniority usually find a reason to not attend the event, and if they do, they make an appearance to walk the floor, but do not commit to working a shift at the booth. Most avoid even stopping at the company's booth even when they are in attendance. They leave the responsibility of staffing the booth to the more junior members of the team or worse, just have the booth sitting alone with some brochures on the table.

If this is the attitude of the senior members at your firm, then spending the money to sponsor the event, ship the booth, and print the materials is a total waste. They would get more ROI from that money by sending a check to me and hoping that I will write about them in my blog. Yet professional services firms continue to spend large sums of money to participate in local, regional and national trade shows with no results. Why do they do this? Well the competition is having a booth, right? It is good PR, right? Name recognition? I have heard dozens of reasons why companies continue to participate in such events, with no return on investment.

The truth is that trade show participation can be a great place to invest your limited marketing funds, but only if those who are client facing fee earners are willing to invest their time to help develop more business. A glossy brochures has never, in the history of business, made a lasting connection with a potential client. No prospect has ever gone back to his office and told his co-workers about the amazing conversation that he had with a booth about ways to increase productivity. You see, business is still about people. In my new book, "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" (available from New Year Publishing in July 2005. More information at www.thomsinger.com), I talk about how you need to create personal connections with a variety of other business people if you want to succeed in your career. Finding those people is one of the tricks, and trade shows are one of the places that business people congregate.

How to get the most from attending a trade show

1. Plan ahead. Spend some time before your company exhibits at a trade show to discuss who will attend, when each person will staff the booth, and whom you wish to meet while you are there. If you know in advance that clients and prospects will be in attendance, call them and schedule times to meet with them at your booth or make plans to buy them dinner or a drink. Just waiting to see them until the show means that you may never cross paths, or that your competition could invite to dinner before you get to make the ask.

2. Never leave your booth unattended. Law firms are the worst offenders of having unattended booths, but many are guilty of this offense. Not only will nobody stop at an empty booth, often people at shows negatively judge companies with deserted booths. Those who are walking the trade show are doing so with the hopes of meeting interesting people and companies. Do not disappoint them, be there to talk about your products and services.

3. It is everyone's responsibility to staff the booth. If your senior team thinks it is beneath them to have a shift at the booth, then do not make the financial investment in participation. While some marketing people are very good at working trade shows, those in attendance want to meet the people with whom they would be working when they become a client. This means people at all levels in your firm need to be involved at the trade show booth. In addition, if one person is staffing the booth, then they can only talk to one person at a time. The more members of your team on hand, the better your odds of making some good contacts at the show.

4. Follow up. The most important part of a participating in a trade show is how you follow up with the people you met. Most firms fail at doing any follow up. Your whole team should have a post-show meeting where you sit down and go over the list of everyone that your company made contact with at the event. Then action items should be assigned senior team members to make follow up contacts. Again, if follow up is delegated to junior staff members or the marketing department, then you are leaving money on the table.

Go all the way or stay home

You can either dread trade shows or you can embrace them, and your results will be directly correlated to your attitude. I recommend that every company evaluates how their team views trade show participation. If the consensus is that they are a waste of time and the senior team will not agree to actively participate, then your firm should decide to just not participate at all. If you make the commitment to sponsor such shows, then jump in with both feet, fully staff your booth and meet as many people as possible. And don't forget the follow up! You never know who you will meet at a trade show that could lead to more business.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Nobody Is Perfect

When dealing with other people in the business world you need to realize that nobody is perfect. The first person you have to understand this about is yourself. I am very aware that I have faults, and while I am working very diligently to overcome these shortcomings, I still struggle.

I have written a book on the topic of building a professional network (available at www.thomsinger.com), and I have publicly spoken on this topic to dozens of companies, law firms and other organizations....and yet I still find myself breaking some of the very business rules that I try to teach others.

Yesterday I had a brief encounter with a nice woman named Pat. Although we are not close friends, I have known her for years through the local community. We talked briefly as we walked into a luncheon for the American Marketing Association. Pat asked me about my new job and how the writing of my book was progressing. I happily told her all about both of these exciting projects in my life, and our conversation ended as we reached the registration table. I did not realize it at the time, but I failed to ask her that simple question that is so important in networking: "How are things going for you?". I did not even realize it at the time, as I had been so happy to share with her the details of my own career.

The speaker at the luncheon was an author of another book on business relationships (The Ripple Effect by Steve Harper www.therippleeffectbook.com). During the questions at the end of the presentation, Pat raised her hand. Her question was a shot right into my heart. She asked, "When you are in situation where you are networking, what do you do if the other person talks only about themselves. Their new job, or their new book. How do you move the conversation back to you if the other person is self-centered?". OUCH.

I knew immediately that I had failed in my short interaction with Pat. While nobody else in the room knew whom she was talking about, I knew that I had been that selfish person. I know Pat is too nice of a person to have publicly embarrassed me, but I felt horrible.

The funny thing is that I know better than to be that self-centered person. I write articles and teach seminars on making your networking about the other person. I try very hard to overcome those demons inside many of us that wants to make it "all about ME". This was a great reminder that nobody is perfect, ... Certainly not the author of this article.

After the meeting I waited for Pat, hoping I could causally pick up where our conversation left off, but I did not see her again. I spent the rest of the day thinking back on our conversation, and her question to the speaker. I promised myself to refocus my efforts to listen more than I talk, and to never leave a conversation without being inquisitive about the other person. The old saying, "God gave you two eyes, two ears and one mouth, ....use them in proportion" rang out in my head all afternoon.

Sadly, I am sure I will fail to follow my own advise on this topic and others in the future. The trick, I guess, is to just continue to try to learn and improve.

Sorry Pat. The next time I see you I promise to ask how things are going in your world.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Say Thank You

In today's busy business world, very few people take the time to say "Thank You" to other people who are part of their life. The reality is that nobody is an island, and the successes that we attain are directly connected to other people who contribute to the things we do. Yet, I have seen that it is the exception, not the rule, when a business person goes out of his way to really thank those around them.

I recently had a friend ask me for a referral to an attorney. Because I spent many years working inside law firms, I not only know many lawyers, but also know how to find local experts in a variety of legal practice areas. I connected my friend with a great lawyer who was a perfect match for his needs. I introduced them by email, and never thought about it again. Three weeks later I walked into my office to discover a very nice bottle of wine sitting on my desk with a gracious thank you note from the attorney. He had met with my friend and was retained to represent him in the matter. He wanted to be sure that I knew he appreciated my thinking of him.

I was blown away. I have spent most of my professional career connecting people to others in my professional business network, but I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been thanked with more than the words "thank you". This lawyer, who I did not know well, made a lasting impression on me. Not only will I always put him at the top of the list for future referrals, but I have tried to incorporate unique ways to say "thank you" to those in my life as well.

How about you? Has anyone in your life sent you a piece of business or helped you complete a special project? Have you said thank you with a bottle of wine or other token of appreciation?

One tool that I have discovered is the gift card. While not always appropriate to give to just anyone, a gift card to Starbucks, Old Navy or Bennigan's is a great way to show your gratitude. I have found a company called Quick Gifts (www.quickgifts.com) that allows you to purchase giftcards from hundreds of different companies, or just send a specific dollar amount, thus allowing the recipient to select the vendor of their choice. This can be accomplished with a physical card or as an on-line service, and is a great way to let someone select a customized gift that they will enjoy.

However you you do it, make it your habit to say "Thank You" with more than words on a regular basis. You will be remembered for your efforts.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

PS- My website for my book: "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" is now live. The book will be released by New Year Publishing in July 2005, but we are now able to take pre-orders. Check it out at www.thomsinger.com.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Building a Network Takes Time...Be Patient

I was recently having a discussion with a friend who wants to grow his reputation in his industry, and desires to be seen as one of the local "experts" in his field. He knows that I have written a book on the topic of networking and business relationships ("Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" will be released by New Year Publishing in July 2005. More information on my book is available at www.thomsinger.com), and decided to buy me lunch to get some free advice.

In the course of our ninety-minute meal together, I listened to his hopes of becoming a well recognized name and was surprised by the short time frame that he thought this could be accomplished. He felt that if he focused on networking for a few months, that by the end of the summer he could be seen as the "Go To Person". He has always worked hard and knows that the people whom he has worked with think highly of his abilities, but he has never spent any time networking outside of his company and small circle of business associates. He believes that his work should speak for itself, and for him to go out and promote himself was equal to bragging. He wants people to seek him out because he is GREAT, and could never see himself as the type who could "blow his own horn". In addition, it was clear that he sees the world as having two kinds of people, those to whom he can sell his services and a bunch of other people who do not matter.

I am not sure that he was happy with the free advice that he heard from me at the end of our luncheon, but he did ask me for my input so I told him what I thought about his views of building a network.

To start, he looked at the whole process as something that could benefit his career. Never once, even when I brought it up, did he address what he could do to assist others in his network. His whole focus was on growing his own reputation with the end result being more business for his company. If your motives are selfish, then your return on the time invested in networking will be limited. You must see the "give and take" relationship of networking, and be committed to give more than you get. Especially in the beginning.

The second point was that he was going to have to accept some level of self promotion. If he did not let others know what it was that he did, and did well, then there would be no way for the word to spread. While some folks might sing your praises for a job well done, not everyone will. Therefore you must find ways to help get that message out to the public. I aggreed that bragging was not a good plan, but I suggested that he start writing articles for some business journals and other trade magazines. Additionally I told him to start a blog where he could write short bursts of information that solidified his position as an industry expert. He quickly criticized the idea of writing articles of any kind, because he believed that it took too much time, and he stated that "you don't get business from having articles published." He told me of how he had written articles early in his career and his phone never rang. It was clear that he did not understand the importance of investing the time and having diverse ways for his message to reach clients and prospects. It was also evident that he wanted a magic bullet that would bring him fame and new business opportunities. I explained that if it was easy to become that "Go To Person", everyone would do it.

Finally, my friend wanted to build a network of professional contacts in too short a time frame. He knew that I had developed a decent reputation, and wanted to do the same thing. But the fact is that I began my dedication to networking a decade earlier. For the first five or six years I was just some nice kid who showed up at a lot of events. It took me a long time to actually build friendships with a variety of people who now know and trust me. My advise was to accept that building a true business network will take three to five years of dedication, and then the rest of your life to cultivate those relationships.

I don't think this guy liked any of what I told him. He thought he could accomplish his goal by September, and could do it without the investment of too much time or money. I'll check back with him in August. My guess is by then he will be over the idea of networking, and will downgrade the importance of having these types of business connections. I have discovered over the years that people who want to take shortcuts rarely succeed. Building a network and a professional reputation takes time. Be patient.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Friday, May 13, 2005

Networking Is A Hot Topic, Again

During the boom boom times of the late 1990's and early 2000 it was very important to have an ever growing network of people you knew in the business community. There were hundreds of networking events that people could attend every month, that it seemed like there was never enough time to do any work. Everybody that you met had a business idea that was headed for a hot IPO, and people could not get enough of each other. Many work days executives could find them selves at what I called a "Three Nametag Day": where you attended a breakfast meeting, a luncheon and a happy hour. Business cards were flying around like bees in a meadow.

Then came the downturn, layoffs, corporate scandals and the new economy seemed to be ending. Many people seemed to go into hibernation. Those who had never liked to network were happy to see the "high tech happy hours" and other events evaporate. While networking might have fallen from fashion, it never stopped being important.

Now in 2005, the importance of having contacts to grow your business and career seems to be making a comeback. The success of Keith Ferrazzi's book, "Never Eat Alone" , has lead magazine's and newspapers to begin to write about networking as if it was a the newest idea in corporate America. My own book on the same topic stresses the fact that networking is always important, and those who can successfully manage relationships will always find paths to greater successes.

In yesterday's Houston Chronicle there was a great article about networking that hits on the most important issue.... You must be sincere. If you do not honestly care about the other people in your network, it wont work. If the whole reason you interact with others is because of what they can do for you, your efforts in building a network will collapse like a card house.

While networking is popping up again as a hot topic.... do not think that it is a fad. A network of professional contacts that can refer you business is always an important tool for every businessperson.

You can read the Houston Chronicle article at:

More information on my book, which will be released in July 2005, is available at www.thomsinger.com.

Keith Ferrazzi's book can be found at:

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Should You Blog?

While Blogs have been around for a long time, it seems that in the past few months they have become a very hot topic. I have attended three business association luncheons in the past two months where Blogs were the topic of discussion. In addition, I began this Blog in March as I was finishing up my book on Networking ("Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" will be released by New Year Publishing in July 2005. More information available at www.thomsinger.com). My reasons for creating this blog was to continue sharing my views on the importance to networking to build a more successful career, and having a blog is a great way to publish your thoughts and promote your business (in this case, my book).

There are many people who have strong views about Blogs. The one thing that is certain is that blogging is not just a fad. The medium is here to stay. (I once worked for a guy in 1988 who swore that cell phones and fax machines were just a fad..... come on Joel, how do you feel now?) . How Blogs are used and which ones succeed will be determined over time, but if you are a professional who wants your business to be viewed as the expert, you should consider publishing your own blog.

The purists in the blogosphere do not believe that people should be promoting their business in blogs, but the "Business Blog" is one of the fastest growing segments in the marketing and public relations world. While less than 10% of companies currently have Blogs, that number is growing.

I believe that if you want to help grow your credibility and your visibility a blog is a great tool. The most important thing is that you need to be committed to writing on a regular basis, and that you have something to say that people will want to read. You can have links from your website or use other ways to lead people to your blog. The more relevant information you can create, the more chances that you will be found via search engines, and thus lead those seeking your services directly to you. I will admit, I have not been as good about contributing to my own blog as I advise others, but I am hoping to make more regular posts.

My goal is to continue my writing on the topic of growing your professional reputation and image, as creating the book has been a wonderful experience. I am passionate about the importance of having a personal career brand, and hope that my experiences can help others. In addition I can promote the book and log a body of writing that can be used for future articles.

While reading a blog authored by my friend, Larry Bodine, I discovered a great while paper on the do's and don't of having a corporate blog. The paper was put out by Edelman PR and Intelliseek. I think that everyone who has a business slant to their blog MUST read this paper: http://www.edelman.com/image/insights/content/ISwp_TrustMEdia_FINAL.pdf

Larry Bodine's Marketing Professionals blog can be found at: http://pm.typepad.com/professional_marketing_bl/

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Thom Singer

Create Time For Networking/Biz Dev

Matt Lyons is a very successful corporate lawyer who has little free time in his schedule. He has a top tier legal practice, a new baby, and too many other commitments in his schedule. Over the course of his career he has seen the benefits of networking and building a personal/professional brand, but when there is a pressing client issues, he drops everything else and focuses only on the matter at hand.

He is so dedicated to being a phenominal lawyer, that he can lapse into times when he does not do any business development. The downside to this is that when the project is complete, there is no new work in the pipeline to keep Matt and his team working to full capacity. This boom and bust mentality to networking is a common problem that haunts many business professionals.

I recommend that you carve out a small amount of time every day, or every week, where you commit to doing the basic things that are needed for cultivating your network of contacts. Matt's answer is that he arrives at the office thirty minutes early three days a week and dedicates this time to answering emails and returning phone calls. He also uses this time to set up networking lunches and to RSVP for seminars and other business meetings that he wishes to attend. He double checks his calendar and blocks out periods of time to ensure that he will not ignore the networking obligations that are necessary to continue to grow his practice.

Make meeting new people and cultivating professional relationships a priority and over time you will reap the rewards. People who do not have a strong network often marvel at those that have created deep business relationships. But anyone can build a network that will lead to more business, but only by investing time in other people. If you are always focused on yourself, you will never build a useful network.

Make the time and then follow through.

Thom Singer

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Are you a purple cow?

In his phenomenal book, “Purple Cow”, marketing guru Seth Godin (http://www.sethgodin.com/) has many great examples of how companies need to market themselves in today’s ever changing world. No longer can a company just purchase advertising and have their products be an overnight success. Consumers are bombarded with advertising to the point that most of it just becomes noise. The premise of his book is that you need to be REMARKABLE or you are INVISIBLE. He cleverly states that when driving through the French countryside, his family was amazed by the beauty of the scenery and all of the cool brown cows that were grazing along the side of the road. At first they could not get enough of the cows. They loved the cows. However, as their drive continued, the cows all started to look alike. They no longer even noticed the cows. One brown cow looked pretty much like the next brown cow. There was not much about a cow that could capture their attention. But, he states, if they saw a purple cow, that would be remarkable… and they would have noticed.

His book is a well written tome for business marketers, but I think that it is also an important read for individuals. The same theories that he announces to companies as important to succeed in the crowded and competitive marketplace are also true for you and me as we try to excel in our careers. What makes you better than the salesperson at your competitor? What makes your clients and prospects want to do business with you? What makes you a purple cow?

We all must strive to be remarkable in our own lives, less we will just be like everyone else. We all have seen people who have been laid off in the economic downturn the last few years. Some people bounced back and found new opportunities quickly, others languished in unemployment for far too long. I believe that those that were known to be remarkable were the first to find new jobs. (Not that others who had long periods without jobs are not remarkable, they had just not made sure that everyone knew it).

My own book, “Some Assembly Required” is a how to guide to building a professional network of contacts. It includes many examples of ways that you can stand out from the crowd and make people see you as a resource. And a resource is a valuable asset. Do your contacts see you as an important part of their own network? It has been a lot of fun to write this book, and I am excited that it will be released this summer. More information is available at www.thomsinger.com

Thom Singer

You Still Need The Personal Touch in a High Tech World

Most great business leads still come from word-of-mouth referrals. No matter how slick your marketing materials, regardless of your high-tech website, and in spite of your firm’s new logo, you still need to create a personal and professional brand in the business community. It is important that others know who you are, and that they are talking about your product or service. I recently heard that a Fortune 500 company has hired a highly paid professional marketing executive whose entire focus is building “word of mouth buzz” about the company’s products. Her focus will be blogs, user groups, focus committees and other forms of viral marketing. Since your firm will not likely employ someone to get your clients and prospects talking about you, that responsibility rests with you.

In this age of email newsletters, on-line RFP’s, flash websites and v-cards, there is still no replacement for a personal relationship. While many professionals hate to take the time to attend networking events, this is still the most important first step in establishing yourself as a rainmaker. You can make excuses all day long, but until you get off your rear-end and go meet people, you will remain unknown in your industry.

Why can’t the marketing department do their job?

I once worked with a lawyer who told me she was tired of having to write articles, network, and go have lunches with prospects. She wanted the marketing department to “do their job” and make her phone ring with potential business. She continued to add that her job was to practice law, not bring in new business. It is not surprising that her reputation in the firm is one of a decent lawyer who had a mediocre practice. Her fellow partners laughed about her demanding personality and her ability to always blame others for her own short comings. What she really needed to do in order to attract more business was to embrace her own firm’s business development efforts. Instead, she looked at her own co-workers as the competition. Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like how you manage your own biz dev efforts?

The Newsletter Does Not Generate Business

Many firms spend countless hours on their newsletters. With the advances in technology, many have found ways to create fabulous publications that are distributed by mail or electronically. They are so proud of the piece that they are sure it is read by everyone in town. But nowadays high quality newsletters and other marketing materials are produced by almost all firms. Additionally, busy professionals receive so much information that few people actually have the time to read anything. Having a “batch and blast” approach to sending newsletters and other firm information no longer has much impact with the your clients and prospects. Think about your “in-box”. How much information are your receiving daily? Do you have the time to read it all? Neither do those who you send information.

New Technology Will Not Sell For You.

When I was a child it was rumored that technology was going to render our lives less complicated and we would have endless hours of free time. I don’t know about you but I am still waiting for that four day work-week. The reality is that new technologies have made it easier for us, and our competitors, to reach out to clients and prospects. But all this technology in today’s fast paced world is making it harder to keep up. There is no longer any excuse for slow response times. Everyone expects to reach us immediately via cell phone, email, blackberry or one of countless other devices that are now mandatory in the business world. And while this technology is pushing us toward excellence, it is also forcing us to work more hours to achieve the same results. Tom Peters famous line “Be Distinct or Be Extinct” has never been more true. To be average is the fastest way to lose business.

Back to Basics

So this is where the personal touch comes back into the equation. It is easy to fire a vendor, it is much more difficult to fire your friend. Having a personal relationship with the people whom you do business will allow you to keep and grow your business. Meanwhile keeping your competitor with the latest technology at bay…at least temporarily. If you have not invested the time to really get to know your clients and prospects, then you are doomed to be another failure in today’s faceless world of business.

Now for your homework: Put down this article, and call someone in your business network and schedule a lunch meeting. Also, my new book: "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" is almost complete. You can purchase an advance signed copy at www.thomsinger.com.

Here is an article I wrote many years ago, but it is still relevant today:


Thom Singer

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Newsletters Do Not Generate Leads

May 5, 2005

So often companies get so caught up in their marketing that they forget that there is no replacement for good old fashion sales skills. A website or a newsletter might be a helpful tool in showing the credibility of your company, but it is still word of mouth that generates most GREAT leads.

If you are in sales and you spend a great deal of your time complaining about your companies brochures, website and other marketing collateral, then you are wasting your time. While I admit that marketing can make your life easier, in the end it is up to you to get off your ass and find the leads and turn them into business.

Harsh words? Sure. But it is true.

I have seen many a company with a great marketing and great products fail. Similarly, there are thousands of examples of successful organizations who continue to set sales records in spite of their horrible marketing materials.

Regardless of your industry, if you are responsible for business development, then you need to get out and network, cold call, build relationships and close sales. Look around at the top producers in your company. They are succeeding with the same materials that you are using.

Now go sell something.

Thom Singer