Success Isn’t Showing Up, It’s Sticking Around

“80% of success is just showing up.”

I’ve been thinking about Woody Allen’s quote for the last few hours, after a rousing night at the relaunch of Social Media Club Indy. We heard Jason Falls speak, and I got a chance to hang out with him and a few other people at Yats Cajun Creole restaurant afterward.

Jason Falls in Indianapolis

Jason Falls models his new t-shirt. That’s me behind him.

I think Woody only got it half right. You can show up all you want, but if you don’t stick around, you’re missing out.

It was a lot of fun to just sit and talk about connections, past relationships, families, search engine optimization secrets, and food. I learned where the New York and Boston accent comes from. I learned a secret about Twitter lists. And I got a nice big plate of chili cheese etouffee with crawfish thanks to Duncan Alney and Joe Vuskovich (owner of Yats).

I’ve been writing and talking about the importance of face-to-face networking as a part of personal branding a lot lately. And last night, I realized that success isn’t just showing up, it’s sticking around.

It’s sticking around for dinner or drinks after the main event. Not to pick someone’s brain, but to share ideas, talk about family, tell stories, and learn more about each other. (Keith Ferrazzi talks about this a lot in Never Eat Alone (affiliate link). It’s my new networking bible.)

If I want to build solid relationships with people I trust and who trust me, I need to spend time with them after special events, not during.

If I want to build solid relationships, I can’t do it in a crowded room with people who only have a few minutes to talk.

If I want to be a valuable resource, I can’t shout advice over a loud crowd and louder music.

I need to hang out with people in a quiet place. The best place to do it is when everyone is happy, excited, and talkative. The best time to do it is after the big event that got people talking excitedly.

Unfortunately for those who didn’t stick around, they missed out on this opportunity. By not sticking around, they missed the chance for deepening relationships that lead to bigger success.

Now, I completely understand why people had to go. They have families to see and take care of. They have work that needs to get done. They have personal lives that mean they can’t stay out until 10:30. I don’t blame them, because 9 times out of 10, I do too. I don’t stick around because I haven’t seen my family since the night before, or I’ve got a client deadline the next day. I couldn’t even stick past 10:30 for drinks, because I had to finish a presentation.

However, there are times that I get to do it, because my family understands my insatiable need to talk with people about things I’m passionate about. And those are the times that I see my personal brand and my relationships leap ahead. (Of course, my family couldn’t care less about whether I’m a big deal to other people. I’m a big deal to them, and that’s who gets most of my attention. So for those who had to leave, I totally support you.)

But if you can arrange it once or twice, stick around. Be the last one out the door, and talk to the event organizers who are sticking around to hang out with the Big Name From Out Of Town. Stick around, and join them for drinks or dinner. You’d be amazed at what will come your way as a result.

So success does come from showing up. Anyone who came and met someone new last night was successful (and will be moreso if they can follow up with some one-on-one networking). But the bigger success, for me, came from sticking around just a little while longer.

Photo credit: Andy Huston

Paid Consulting or Free Advice? A Moral Conundrum

A story.

Pablo Picasso is sitting in a restaurant, when a woman approaches him, gushes over him and his work, and asks him to sketch something on a piece of paper for her.

Picasso takes the paper, and does a quick-but-beautiful sketch. He hands it back to her and says, “that will be $10,000.”

The woman is taken aback. “But it only took you a few minutes to do that. Isn’t $10,000 a lot for just a few minutes work?”

“it may have taken me just a few minutes to draw, but it took me a lifetime to learn,” said Picasso.

I frequently think of Picasso whenever I’m asked to provide free advice and knowledge.

“Can we meet for coffee?” someone will ask me at a networking event. “I want to pick your brain about blogging.” Like my brain is on display, with a lot of other brains.

“Mmmmmmm—that one!”

I’m usually happy to share as much information as I can. I try to be friendly and willing to teach people, as an homage to the people who shared so much information with me when I was first starting out.

This bothers people. Most notably my business partner, Paul, my wife, and any professional consultants.

“You need to charge for your time. You’re giving away information. Information that’s taken you months and years to amass. Even if it takes you an hour to teach them, it took you years to learn it.”

Hamburger with fries

Will work for food. For now.

“Cool!” I think. “My time is worth money. I have years of knowledge and experience that people think is valuable.” And I feel really good, and I promise that, this time, I’ll embrace my inner consultant, and say I’m more than happy to teach them everything I know for a pre-determined hourly rate. Like Picasso did.

But then someone asks me again, and I’m afraid of looking like a money-grubbing a-hole, so I compromise.

“Tell you what. I’m supposed to charge $100 an hour for this kind of information,” I say, rolling my eyes as if to say “they” told me to ask for money. “But if you buy my lunch, I’ll be happy to tell you what I can.”

The other person readily agrees, we meet, and I share whatever I can to help them out. Of course, when I get back to the office or come home that night, I feel like Jack did after he told his mom he traded the cow for some magic beans.

I know I’m supposed to make money from my work. I’m a professional who is hired by companies to actually use my knowledge and skill to help them be successful. I’ve raised the bar (and my rates) even higher in the last year by co-writing two books and working on a third. (At the very least, I think, I should be getting dessert with lunch, but apparently that’s still not good enough and now I have to watch my cholesterol.)

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me. Pablo Picasso scribbled on a piece of paper between courses, and charged a woman $10,000 for something that took him decades to master. I’m sharing many years of blogging and writing wisdom in 60 minutes, and I should be able to look someone in the eye and ask for $100 an hour without stammering out an apology.

I’ve talked with other friends who face the same conundrum. Some are happy to charge, while some are not. I don’t know who to believe. Even the experts aren’t sure.

On one hand, Seth Godin says if I want to be a Linchpin (affiliate link), I need to participate in the Gift Economy, and give this stuff away for free, because then I’m valuable to a lot of other people, and the benefits (and money) will shower upon me. Chris Anderson says that if I give knowledge away for Free (affiliate link), I’ll show my value to others, and the benefits and money will shower upon me some more.

On the other hand, there are hundreds and thousands of professional consultants who make their living getting paid to share their knowledge and experience, which took years to amass. Why should they get paid obscene amounts of money to share their knowledge, when I’m settling for a damn hamburger? (To be fair, it’s a really good hamburger, and I order bacon on it, which usually costs extra. Because I’m worth it.)

What should I do? Should I embrace my inner capitalist and charge people to give them my knowledge? Or should I continue to believe in puppy dogs and rainbows, and share my knowledge for the good of mankind and the benefit of the planet? What would you do? Leave a comment and let me know. I’ll discuss the answers in a future post.

Ignore the ROI of Social Media

That’s right. Ignore it completely.

It’s stupid. It’s a stall tactic. “What’s the ROI?” is often a cop-out question asked by people who don’t really want to do or understand social media. If you’re asked this question when you first start talking to someone about social media, distract them. Jingle your keys in front of them or something.

I heard Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) speak at the Social Media Club Chicago this past week, and he said something that made me want to pump my fist and shout “F— YEAH!!!”

Photo of Patrick Roy

No, no, I meant R-O-I, not Patrick Roy (wah).

“The next someone asks you about the ROI of Twitter,” Scott said, “substitute Twitter with the word ‘talking.’

“What’s the ROI of ‘talking?’ How much money do you make with this new ‘talking’ business? I don’t understand why you’re ‘talking’ to customers all the time.”

F— YEAH!!! </fistpump>

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging — they’re all tools for communication, just like talking. But we don’t measure the ROI of talking. We measure total results, usually as a sales figure.

I love networking. I go to networking meetings, and I talk to people. I meet those people later for coffee, and talk some more. My cost is the driving, the time, and the coffee (medium decaf mocha, extra hot, please). The ROI — which I have never been asked about — comes when I close a deal, get a speaking gig, get a referral for a new client, or even get a book deal. That’s something I can measure after the fact. But I can never figure it out beforehand.

An example: the first time I ever met my good friend and writing partner, Kyle Lacy (@kyleplacy), for coffee was nearly three years ago. I think I bought my own coffee, but I could be wrong. (I probably am.)

Total cost? $4.20 (mochas ain’t cheap, Chester).

But what did I get out of it? Over the last three years, several speaking opportunities, collaborating on a couple projects, a little business passed back and forth, and two book deals. And he’s bought lunch a couple times. So the ROI is pretty damn high, especially if he did buy the coffee. [Update: I checked with Kyle. He bought the coffee. He always buys coffee for first meetings. Looks like I owe him a cup.]

I’ve never had to justify the ROI of talking. No one does. So why should we justify the ROI of Twitter and Facebook? They’re tools that let us talk. If we have to explain their ROI, then show me the ROI of your cell phone. Or your desk phone. Or your laptop and email. Show me the ROI on a handshake.

Otherwise, stop asking me about it until you start using it. Then we’ll figure it out.

(Note: This is NOT to say that social media should not be measured. It absolutely should. But if you ask about ROI at the beginning of your efforts, you’re setting up for failure, because you don’t know what you’re trying to measure. Instead, try it, use it, jump into it. Get good at it. Then measure how much money you’ve made on it. I’ll talk more about how — and why — to measure the ROI of social media next week.)

My Favorite Moment from BlogIndiana 2010 Is Not What You Think

My favorite moment from BlogIndiana 2010 is not what you think? You might think it was the talk I gave on Saturday. But it wasn—okay, that was pretty awesome. It’s always an honor to speak there.

No, my favorite moment was when a few of us snuck out to lunch, and John Uhri (of the Sketch Notes) I introduced Jason Falls and Jay Baer to MacNiven’s, a Scottish restaurant in downtown Indianapolis.

MacNiven’s makes a pretty decent hamburger, but what’s unusual about it is that it’s 1/4 pound of beef, smashed to 8″ around. You have to fold it up to eat it. I explained it to Jay, and then Jay — having never practiced before, mind you — showed the rest of the world how to eat it. Now that is a quick study.

Not Every Social Media Consultant Knows What They’re Doing

I was tweeting with my friend and fellow social media consultant, Dana Nelson, a couple nights ago about a business presentation she was sitting in, when she quoted this piece of advice from the presenter.

“Posting your business on other business sites is lame – tagging business/ cross marketing does not work.”

Wait, what? Who said that, the business professor from Back to School?

Cross-posting doesn’t work? Creating visible partnerships is lame? Creating a referral network is ineffectual?

Look, there are a lot, a lot, a loooooooot of social media consultants out there. And they don’t all know what they’re talking about. It worries me that these people are spreading poor information out there. It’s like a volunteer sheriff’s deputy telling people you can’t be arrested for drunk driving if you’re wearing your seat belt. (Caution: You can be arrested for drunk driving, even if you are wearing your seat belt.)

And this 16-word piece of misinformation is a doozy, and so wrong in so many ways.

  • It’s a widely accepted fact in search engine optimization circles that promoting a business site on another site is going to give me some big search engine juice. Anyone who understands basic SEO knows that backlinks are what give your site a high search engine ranking.
  • Coke and McDonald’s would disagree with your views on cross-marketing. As would Pizza Hut and Pepsi. Or any movie studio with Happy Meal Toys and Burger King Kids’ Meal Toys. Or BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon. And any sponsors of any NASCAR or Indy Car racing team.
  • People buy from people they like, and accept recommendations from people they trust. If Dana recommends a good restaurant to visit, I’m going to believe her. Why? Because I like her and trust her. It’s the same with businesses. If a business I trust recommends the services of another business, I’m going to believe them. The smart thing for small businesses to do is to team up with allied businesses.
  • There are more business networking experts than there are social media experts (as hard as that is to believe). Nearly all of them will shout the praises of networking, referral sharing, and cross-promoting. And I’ll believe business networking experts who measure their experience in years and decades, not weeks and months.

This is just one of many reasons why you need to screen your so-called social media “expert” before you hire them. Especially if they blather on with inane bits of advice like this.

3 Common Social Media Mistakes Companies Make

We are sponsors of At The Top Networking, an Indianapolis-based networking group for people who are, or want to be, at the top of their career ladder, the top of their game.

Every month we have a strategy session before the general networking session, and this month was “Common Marketing Mistakes Companies Make.” Each of us had 10 minutes to speak on our topic, and each of us was supposed to talk about 3 mistakes. Mine was “Common Social Media Mistakes Companies Make.”

I have to thank — because I totally stole these points from them — the following people:

  1. Ignoring Social Media: Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It
  2. Broadcasting, Not Conversing: Tara Hunt, author of The Whuffie Factor
  3. Abandoning Your Campaign: Kyle Lacy, author of Twitter Marketing for Dummies (I helped write this one).

Also on the panel:

We have one more At The Top event on May 20, at the Skyline Club in Indianapolis. We hope to have more events in the future, and we’ll have more information on that in the coming weeks.

At the Top – Entrepreneurial Networking for Indianapolis

Ron Sukenick approached me several weeks ago and described a new networking event he was putting together called “At the Top”. As he his idea, it had a familiar sound to it. It sounded a lot like the old Entrepreneurs Alliance of indiana.

I thought, “Man, I miss the old Entrepreneur’s Alliance.” I miss seeing everyone on the 3rd Thursday of every month to have drinks and learn about how business started, failed and succeeded.

So, Ron asked if Professional Blog Service would like to be a co-sponsor of the event. I said, “Absolutely.”

Here is why, I would not have co-started Professional Blog Service, if not for the Entrepreneurs Alliance. It was there that I heard many stories from many different Indianapolis business people who were just like me. My all-time favorites were:

  • Ray Compton – “You don’t need a lot of money to market, you need to be creative.”
  • Harley Davidson – “There are three things needed to be a successful manager – knowledge, experience, and emotional competency.” With the emphasis on emotional competency.
  • Jeff Smulyan – Great story about how he got started

And the other companies:

  • Ritters Ice Cream
  • JD Byrider
  • Scott Jones
  • Ontario Systems

The list really goes on and on. There were a lot of great companies and speakers that participated at the Entrepreneurs Alliance of Indiana.

So, Ron has resurrected this idea with his “At the Top” program. The venue is the excellent Skyline Club downtown. (Get it? “At the Top” on top of Indianapolis?) The format is going to be similar to what we did at EAI. There will be cocktails and appetizers with a guest speaker for each meeting.

So, if you are an Entrepreneur seeking inspiration from other Entrepreneurs that have gone through what you are experiencing, go to the “At the Top” meeting November 18, 2009.

What: At the Top
When: November 18, 2009
Time: 5:30p
Where: Skyline Club – Downtown Indianapolis

Professional Blog Service is very happy to be a co-sponsor of this important series of meetings. Without entrepreneurs, there is no economy. And we’re happy to help contribute our efforts to this event.

Photo: ExistDifferently