Value of Soft Assets

The indefatigable and ubiquitous Auren Hoffman, CEO of Rapleaf, posts his slides from a presentation on the value of soft assets (“connections, knowledge, and reputation”). I particularly like his analogy between alternative assets in the hard and soft space.

FastCompany book excerpt: 10 Steps to Leverage Online Networks

FastCompany has just published an excerpt of our book on the ten basic steps necessary to take full advantage of online networks. The excerpt is called, Leveraging Your Links.

Years ago, when I interned for Procter & Gamble, we were told to never write a memo longer than one page. This excerpt is our book written on one page.

Five weeks of networking online

Check out the inspiring story of Hendrik Deckers’ first five weeks of networking online, which includes snippets about Plaxo, RealContacts, LinkedIn, Ryze, and ultimately Ecademy.

His results include a deal just three weeks into it and hundreds of new connections. He’s been so inspired by the experience that he signed up to launch Ecademy Belgium.

I think the most important message out of all of this is that when he looked at his past habits, he realized he had been doing pro-active cold calling and re-active networking, but had not been doing pro-active networking:

“What a revelation that was. Selling my services is at least 20 times easier through networking than through cold calling. WAW. This conclusions made it crystal clear to me, from now on I will only invest my resources and time in pro-active networking for new business.”

Objections to online networking

Stephanie West-Allen, a great advocate and practitioner of online networking, recently posted a question on one of the lists we’re on together about the various objections she gets from people about online networking. Never one to keep my opinion to myself about a topic I’m passionate about, I gave my replies.

Maybe you’re hesitant yourself, and some of them will help address some of your own concerns. Or maybe you’re trying to persuade some friends and colleagues who aren’t as into it as you are, and this will help:

Objection: It takes too much time to figure out/monitor. Are the benefits really
worth it?

Yes. Forget about me — I’m a bit unusual because this is my core business. But for example, I recently made a referral to someone through purely online networking (Ryze, in fact), that turned into a $10K+ deal for them. They’re a web design firm — a few employees, not just a one-man shop — and they have reported to me that fully 5% of their business this year has come directly from Ryze.

What’s a 5% increase in your sales worth to you? Surely $10 a month and a half an hour a day, right?

Objection: I do my networking offline and this lacks the personal touch. It can’t
create a real relationship/trust.

Untrue. My co-author and I have been working together well over a year. He’s probably one of the most trusted business relationships I’ve ever had. And yet, he and I have still not met face-to-face. I routinely do 4-figure consulting deals without ever meeting face-to-face.

Frankly, especially if someone blogs, you can learn far more about them in fifteen minutes of reading what they’ve written than you can in fifteen minutes of talking to them, because we read, on average, about twice as fast as we talk. Plus, you’re “listening” the entire time online.

Besides, people can develop enough trust to propose marriage to each other only having met online — why should business relationships be different?

Objection: This is for the younger kids.

NOT! Even Tribe, which attracts a younger crowd in general, is 28% people in the 31-40 age bracket. I don’t have data on the other networks, but a random scan through Ryze or Ecademy will certainly contradict this perception.

Objection: No really professional/established people use this.

HAH! This one’s easy… LinkedIn has folks like Pierre Omidyar, Esther Dyson, Marc Andreessen, Flip Filipowski, and many more. Ecademy has a number of Directors and VPs from Microsoft Europe, BT, and others. Even on Ryze, I’ve met a former Fortune 100 President, the CKO of Ernst & Young Canada, a Managing Director of the Chasm Group, and many, many other very senior people. On Spoke, you’ll find all kinds of people — maybe not as members, but accessible through members. There are also other, more exclusive communites — the MBA Association, The Square, et al.

Objection: Maybe the value of this will eventually build but I will wait and see.

Fine. Wait and see. By then, the early adopters will have built up a wealth of social capital, and you’ll be playing catchup. If it has value for you ever, it has value for you to do.

Objection: This is for the introverted people who don’t like direct communication.

Yeah, right. Anyone here ever met me face-to-face? I’m a total extrovert. I max out the scale on “E” in the Myers-Briggs. Lots of other extroverts I know. Heck, on Tribe, there’s a dedicated group just for ENTPs (like me).

Objection: Okay, are people really getting business there?

Yes. How much evidence do people need? This may sound really harsh, but flat out… if you’re not getting business through online networking, either a) you’re not doing it right, or b) you don’t have a credible product/service.

Objection: They are not free-flowing enough.

I’m not sure what this means. Once you get into a direct conversation with someone, it’s as free-flowing as you want to make it.

What objections have you heard (or do you have)? How have you answered objections from others? Please leave your comments below.

Online Networking for Authors

John Kremer, one of the leading experts on book marketing, once said, “Book marketing is all about relationships. And you’d better get good at doing them long-distance, because you’re never going to meet most of the people face-to-face.”

While telephone and e-mail may be sufficient for basic communications with these people once you’ve identified them, the Internet provides a wealth of opportunities to meet and connect with other authors, agents, publishers, retailers, readers, and others who can help you throughout the lifecycle of your book.

Before you start writing
The process of marketing your book starts before you even start writing it. You will also find that you will be wanting help and input regarding various aspects of the book-writing process. Some things you can use the Internet for before you start are:
· Market research
· Competitive analysis
· Education about the industry
· Start building a support network

While you’re writing your book
Very few books are truly written by one person with no other input. Non-fiction books need research for credibility and real-world stories for depth. Even fiction writers need brainstorming ideas, and just the general stimulation that comes from interacting with people. Some places you might want to spend time online during the writing process include:
· Writer’s forums
· Topical online communities
· Media communities

Preparing to publish
Some people get an agent and a publisher before they ever even start. Some write the book first and then take months or even years to get a publishing contract. The vast majority lie somewhere in between. You can turn to your online network for a variety of help with the process:
· Deciding on a publishing route
· Get input from multiple people
· Get referrals to agents and publishers
· Get feedback on your proposal
· Get endorsements on your proposal

Marketing your book
Your book is hot off the press! Now, how are you going to make it a best-seller? Assuming you haven’t been booked for the major talk show circuit, the next-best way to reach large numbers of people is to turn again to your growing network to help you get the word out. But it’s not going to be just to them and their immediate contacts—the idea is to now leverage those connections to help you reach a much larger audience. Here are just a few of the ways you can do this:
· Mailing list / forum announcements
· Media referrals
· Referrals to bulk buyers

From cradle to grave (or at least to the used book store shelves), a strong online network can help you write the right book, find the right agent and publisher, and market it to the right people.

Top Ten Online Business Networking Tips

1. Remember, you’re connecting with people.
Networking is people connecting with people to contribute to one another in some way. This is true whether you are networking face to face or computer to computer. Remind yourself as you are networking online that there is another person on the other side of that computer screen responding to your emails, websites and online messages.

2. Clarify what you have to give and what you want to gain from your online networking.
Identify your purpose and objectives for joining and participating in an online community. Make sure you are clear about what you have to contribute to the community as well as what you can gain from being part of the community.

3. Become an information center.
Maintain a master file of documents, resources, web links, etc. which have been helpful to you in your work. Not only are these useful resources for you in your daily activities, but they can readily be shared with others. These help you to become a giver, not a taker.

4. Be personally visible on the Internet.
Maintain a personal home page. Drive traffic to your website(s), e.g., by posting useful materials in the resources or links area. Use the signature file in your email to publicize who you are and the nature of your professional activities. Write and publish articles at every opportunity, and be sure that the bylines link to your website.

5. Pick an online community or communites that work for you.
Find online communities where your purpose is in sync with the mission of the online community. Make sure the community provides the types of opportunities and interactions that you desire.

6. Review the online community as a guest before you join.
Once you find an online community that is of interest to you, take time to check out the site to learn more about their purpose, activities and membership criteria. If you were considering joining a networking club or industry association, you would probably visit as a guest to learn more about the organization before you make a commitment to be a member. This same attitude and approach is appropriate for online communities.

7. Be prepared.
Create a master document of your bios, profiles and introductions that contains the following:
• Personal branding statement(s)
• Bios — short & long
• Profiles used on various sites
• E-mail/forum intro template
• URLs of all your online publications
• URLs of all your profiles
Pull information from this document to write your online community profile. Be sure to review other profiles on the site to notice what other community members are including in their profiles. Identify the types of information that are most suitable to include that will help you make the best connections. Take what you learn from reviewing other profiles and clarify your purpose. Make any updates to your profile that will make it most effective. Having a master document will make it easy for you to quickly create online profiles and update multiple sites when you change jobs, write a new article or otherwise change your positioning.

8. Pace yourself.
Get involved in online communities at a pace that you can maintain. It is better to get involved gradually than to make a big splash and then fade away. Let your involvement and presence be a building process that grows in momentum, visibility and value over time. This gives you and others a chance to develop trust and rapport.

9. Manage your email.
Email can stack up just like paperwork on your desk can stack up. The same organizing system that applies to paper, applies to emails. Read it, delete it, file it or send it to the appropriate person for response. Create a “Read” file and an “Action” file so that you can move emails there appropriately and keep your incoming email file box clean and current.

10. Be sensitive to people’s time and email boxes.
Be respectful and appropriate with the use of people’s time. This includes the time it takes for people to read and respond to your emails and online messages. Send succinct, to-the-point messages that can be read and responded to with ease. Do not waste people’s time. Give value and create value.

Common Objections to Online Networking

Many people complain that they want to network, they need to network—but they simply do not have the time, the knowledge, the money, or the personality. We address below some of these common objections:

A. I have no time!
We sympathize with this complaint. We would all like to network more, but of course we all have obligations to family and work that keep us from attending every party and participating in every online forum that we find interesting!

The primary remedy for this problem is effective time management. Imagine you were on the bus and saw someone throwing a dollar bill out the window once a minute. You would never do such a crazy thing, correct? However, that is exactly what you are doing if you are wasting time. If you do not relate to the degree of importance of even a single second, we suggest that you ask an Olympic sprinter about the value of even a hundredth of a second.

In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote about the difficulty of doing Type II activities, which which he defined as those activities which are important but not urgent. Networking is like exercising or doing your taxes; you can delay and procrastinate and postpone and reschedule, but in the long run the task must be done. The longer you wait, the more difficult the action becomes. As your waistline becomes flabbier, your Rolodex will grow skinnier.

B. I don’t know how to use the computer!
For 80% of our readers, this is a non-issue. You are already familiar with all of the terms and procedures in this book; nothing that we discuss here requires a particularly high level of computer literacy.

For the 20% of our readers who do not feel comfortable with our computers, we refer you to Carol Teten, who is rapidly approaching senior citizen status. Carol is one of the world’s leading experts in historical dance. A few years ago, she decided that she wanted to become computer literate. She hired a teenager in her neighborhood to tutor her for $10 per hour. With hard work and his help, she rapidly progressed from a computerphobe to woman who spends hours on the web running her successful and profitable online business, We assure you that if someone with the handicap of little computer experience can reach that level of proficiency, then all of our readers can do the same.

C. I don’t have the money!
One of the biggest advantages of online business networking is that it can be exceptionally cheap. You can rapidly become a highly visible online networker for under $20/month by following the tips and principles we advocate at

D. Not sufficiently extroverted
Many people are hesitant to become aggressive offline networkers because they complain that they are not extroverted enough. However, part of the beauty of online networking is that it is very easy for people who are nervous around crowds, or not particularly articulate, to become highly effective networkers.