How To Supercharge Your Referral Relationships

September 14, 2017

I recently realized that my business is generating over $300,000 in annual recurring revenue from one unique source of clients.

Every dollar of that $300,000 is generated from individuals who had no interest in my services when we first met.

These people did not magically appear in my office ready to do business with me. I wasted a lot of time and energy meeting new people until I created a structure for making this process easy and predictable.

But before I get to that, let me tell you where I was several years ago…


I’ve always been of the opinion that one of the best ways to add value to my network, while positioning myself to get more introductions to ideal clients, is by developing and deepening relationships with referral partners and centers of influence (COIs). (Centers of Influence are individuals who can boost your market access and credibility through referrals, testimonials, and word-of-mouth.)

Earlier in my career, I typically met COIs by way of introductions from clients or from networking. When I met a seemingly worthwhile connection, the typical  follow up was: “Let’s grab lunch or coffee to learn more about each other.”

These meetings are a great way to develop and maintain relationships with centers of influence (COIs) and referral partners, but you have to take a long-term approach and put in the time. When you are in the early stages of growing your business, you should be developing relationships with as many CIOs as possible. However, an hour and a half is a big time commitment when you have a full plate.

I had arrived at a point where I was spending the majority of my time servicing existing clients and working on my business. I had significantly less time to keep up with my existing network in a meaningful way, let alone the time to develop new relationships. As my roster of clients expanded, I needed to find a more efficient way to meet new people.

At that time, one of my clients had suggested I meet Bob, their estate planning attorney. He apparently did great work, and so I agreed that an introduction would make sense.

Bob emailed me proposing we grab lunch at some point to learn more about each other. This seemed like a good idea, but there was a problem. I could barely get together with my existing COIs as often as I would like, let alone make the time to develop new relationships.

Then something very cool happened…

Almost immediately after hearing from Bob, I received a serendipitous email from Mark. Mark was an accountant I had known for years and it had been awhile since we connected in person. Mark wanted to know if I had time in the coming weeks to schedule our long-overdue lunch.

Then I started thinking…


I thought, I should see if Bob wants to join Mark and me for lunch. Combining these lunches into one would allow me to deepen my relationship with two professionals in the same amount of time I was planning to spend with just one. Plus, it could be beneficial for them to meet each other.

I asked Mark what he thought, and he agreed it was a great idea.

The day of the lunch arrived. To my delight, the two of them hit it off right away, and Bob had an immediate opportunity for Mark. We all walked away having drawn value from the meeting.

After we parted ways, they both reached out and told me how incredibly grateful they were that I organized the lunch, and asked how they could help me.

Given how beneficial it was to host a lunch that brought together two people in my network, I started envisioning the potential power of a larger lunch.

I emailed each of them and suggested we do it again next month, but that we should each invite 2-3 other professionals to join us. We invited a mix of existing clients, COIs, and a few prospects.

The end result was nothing short of spectacular. In my next email, I’m going to share exactly what I did and how powerful these lunches can be for your business.

In the meantime, if you routinely grab lunch with COIs to explore synergies and deepen your relationships, you should consider inviting a third wheel to join you next time – especially if you think the two of them will connect in a meaningful way.

If you liked this post and and think a friend or colleague could benefit from it, please feel free to share it with them!

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(Unintentionally) Smart Marketing

July 6, 2017

I did something today I haven’t done in 10 years – I applied for a retail credit card.

Now, before you write me off as a sucker, I’d like to explain myself and highlight an important concept I’ve been preaching.

I went to Nordstrom Rack to buy a few pairs of jeans, and while checking out, the cashier gave me the typical pitch:

Cashier: “Are you a Nordstrom Cardholder?”

Me: “No.”

Cashier: “Would you like to apply for membership. You…”

Me: “No thank you.”

Cashier: “We are offering a $40 credit and 0% for…”

Me: “I’m good – thank you.” (It could have been 0% for eternity, and I would have still said no.)

Cashier: “You will get exclusive invitations to our private trunk shows, and there is no annual fee.”

Me: “I’m good.”

Cashier: “Okay. But are you aware that we provide unlimited free alterations?”

Me: “Wait. What did you say?”

Cashier: “As a cardholder, you get free alterations. And not just on things you purchase here. You can bring in clothes you purchased elsewhere, and we’ll do those as well.”

Me: “Wow. Ok, sign me up.”

Considering the alterations on the jeans I just purchased were going to run me at least $50, it was a no-brainer . In fact, I recently spent $500 on alterations (I’ve been on a roll at the gym).

I recently wrote about how I acquired many new clients who were not in the market for my services when we met. The key lies in getting on the radar of your potential new clients by providing benefits that typically have nothing to do with your core service or offering.

Not only was I indifferent to a new card, but I would have told you that you could bet your life’s savings on me not applying for a credit card that day. However, given how much I spend on alterations, signing up for a Nordstrom credit card was a great deal.

They disrupted my indifference by offering something on the fringes of their primary offering that was appealing to me. This perk got me to sign up for a new card, and I’m sure it is a great way for them to retain existing cardholders while avoiding the problem with Passive Loyalty.

Ironically, the free alterations perk was the fourth benefit the employee mentioned to me while touting the benefits of the card.

That got me thinking – a lot of people would not have stayed in the conversation as long as I did because they aren’t as patient as I am. (HA! Who am I kidding? She just caught me on a good day.) I wondered why she didn’t mention this first.  

When I returned to my office, I went to the Nordstrom credit card website to see how the free alterations perk was positioned on the feature list. It wasn’t even on the primary page! Here’s the screenshot:

As you can see, it was nowhere to be found. I actually had to Google “Nordstrom Card Alterations” to see information on this benefit.

Since this is a credit card, Nordstrom/Visa thinks they will get new customers by highlighting their primary features. Like most businesses, they are burying the lead.

As I’ve said before, there is likely a very small market, if any, of folks who will leave their existing provider for you based on lower fees or better service. The benefit that wins them over almost always has to be a benefit that is completely independent of your core service.

For me, it is all about creating events and experiences for my clients to share with their friends. For the Nordstrom/Visa bank credit card, they are offering free alterations.

What do you do or offer that is different than your competition? Are you offering any benefit that is completely independent of your core service as a way to get the attention of prospective clients?

If you liked this post and and think a friend or colleague could benefit from it, please feel free to share it with them!

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Here’s My #1 Client Acquisition Strategy. What’s Yours?

May 17, 2017

client acquisition strategyThe last time you heard from me, I shared the idea that traditional referrals are dying (or dead). I referenced a study which revealed that referrals are at an all time low for financial advisors, and I suspect they are low for most other professionals as well. This study led me to do an audit of my existing client base to determine how I was acquiring new clients.

This review revealed that I am currently generating over $300,000 in annual recurring revenue from clients who were not in the market for my services when we first met!

Before I tell you how I acquired these clients, let me share the process that led to this discovery. Try this for yourself and see what patterns you notice.

  • Open up a new Excel spreadsheet and make a list of all the clients you’ve acquired over the past five years.
  • Put their names in one column, and how you met them in a second column.

If you have never done this, I highly recommend investing 15 minutes towards this activity.

When I reviewed the data I compiled in the spreadsheet, I realized that hardly any of my clients came through a traditional referral (the prospective client asking my clients for a recommendation, or my clients encouraging them to meet with me).

Almost all of these new client relationships came as a result of me doing something special for my existing clients – often where they could include their friends.

Client Appreciation, in one form or another, has been my best form of business development.

Over the years I have done this in a variety of ways, including hosting events like wine tastings, networking lunches, golf outings, lunch and learns, and sporting events, to name a few.

But the most effective thing I have done that has led to acquiring new clients did not involve me hosting an event. It was inviting existing clients to events which featured great speakers and attendees while giving them the opportunity to invite someone from their network to join us.

So, how do you put this into action for your business?

To start, identify events featuring speakers who will share information that is relevant to a particular client. If you work with business owners, it could be a keynote, a panel discussion on sales, or a topic related to HR. For retirees, it could be a seminar on how to use modern technology more effectively.

When you invite a client, let them know the invitation is for them and a guest of their choosing.

I mentioned earlier that I have $300K of recurring revenue from clients who were not in the market for my services when we first met. In some cases, my recurring clients had tried and failed to get these same people to meet with me.

While they weren’t interested in exploring a professional relationship with me, many of them were interested in the topics presented by Seth Godin and Dan Pink (two of the many speakers I have invited clients and their guests to hear). They were grateful that I made it possible for them to learn from these speakers. And they also realized their current advisors weren’t creating these experiences for them.

These experiences have led to some of my client’s guests becoming clients of mine right away. Most of the time, it simply got me in the game, and I was able to convert them into clients over the weeks or months that followed. And there are times, of course, when these guests do not become my clients, but they were still a huge win from my perspective.

Creating these shared experiences will, first and foremost, deepen your existing client relationships and increase the likelihood they will continue to be happy clients. And in an era where traditional referrals are declining, these experiences can be a great way for you to acquire more amazing clients.

What are your thoughts on using strategies other than traditional referrals to successfully acquire new clients? Share your comments below.

If you agree with my client acquisition strategy and think a friend or colleague could benefit from it, please feel free to share this post with them.

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Are Referrals Dead?

April 18, 2017

For most successful trusted advisors, referrals from existing clients and strategic partners have been the primary driver of growth for our practices. Many advisors would also claim that referrals continue to be their #1 source of growth.

Are you one of them?

If so, is it because you are getting more introductions than you can handle, or because you do not engage in other forms of business development?

Are Referrals Dead?

In a recent article from Michael Kitces, The Death Of Referrals And The Future Of Business Development For Financial Advisors, he shared some results from the latest Investment News 2016 Financial Performance benchmarking study that may surprise you. (Even though this article speaks specifically to Financial Advisors, I believe is it highly relevant for all trusted advisors.)

Primarily, for the first time, non-referral business development is now driving more growth than all client and professional referrals, combined. In fact, only 1.8% of growth for the average advisory firm came from client referrals last year.

There are a number of reasons why referrals are down, and I don’t believe they are coming back anytime soon. Here’s why: Early in your career, you probably worked with a younger clientele who were experiencing big life events (getting married, having babies, etc.) that required the services of a financial advisor. These clients referred you to their friends who were in a similar position.

It’s likely that these happy clients introduced you to the majority of their network during the first few years of your relationship. At some point, all of your clients will have referred (or tried to refer) everyone that seemed like a good fit.

Assuming you now have a more established practice, as a result of your clients earning more money and paying you more money, you likely aren’t interested in working with new families or folks just beginning their professional journeys. An ideal introduction for you right now is probably someone with more complex issues (and more cash to pay for your services).

The problem is these folks are likely already working with one of your competitors, and the odds are good that, at a minimum, they are content with the services they receive (i.e. they are passively loyal). Unless they are really dissatisfied, they aren’t asking their friends for referrals and aren’t open to making a change no matter how much your clients sing your praises.

Manufactured Referrals

You may be wondering where you should focus your efforts if the good old days of receiving steady referrals are over. While there are plenty of viable alternatives, the study referenced above showed no clear cut solution. To give you a few ideas to consider, the top four strategies advisors are focusing on in 2017 are community involvement, TV/radio appearances, hosting networking events, and volunteering on non-profit boards.

One of the options not listed in this report is manufactured referrals (probably because it is a term I made up three months ago). If you agree that traditional referrals are dead (or dying), you need to think of creative ways for getting on the radar of ideal prospects you would not otherwise meet. Doing this effectively will be a game-changer for your business development efforts. Before I give you some ideas, I think it’s important to clarity what I mean by a traditional referral.

The process of receiving a traditional referral usually happens in one of two ways:

    • Someone asks one of your clients or strategic partners for a recommendation.
    • Your clients and strategic partners proactively recommend you to their friends and colleagues.

It’s great if you have clients who love you and want to recommend you, but if your current strategy is for them to ask their friends if they are willing to meet you and learn more about your services, you need to understand this approach will yield you very few if any, introductions.

If you are like me, almost anyone worthy of being a great new client for you is already working with another advisor. And at a minimum, they are satisfied with their current provider. (If they were unhappy, they would actively be looking to change.)

The key to getting more introductions to prospective clients is to create reasons for your existing clients to connect you with their friends that have nothing to do with your core services. These reasons can include things like hosting events (big or small), attending events, and creating great content (just to name a few).

To illustrate how this works, here a few questions your existing clients could ask their friends and colleagues that could lead to you being introduced to them:

  1. “My banker is amazing! Would you be willing to meet him to learn more about his services?”
  2. “My banker is hosting a wine-tasting event for a handful of his best clients and is allowing us to bring a guest. Can you join me?”
  3. “My banker invited me to hear Malcolm Gladwell speak at XYZ Venue next week and gave me an extra ticket. Can you join me?”

Unless there is someone actively looking to make a change, no one will say “yes” to Question #1. Conversely, think about how many people would jump at the opportunity to drink amazing wine, or to learn from a bestselling author.

Hint: It will be a lot because these invitations have nothing to do with your services, or whether or not they are looking for a new advisor. They will, however, get you in front of a lot of people you otherwise would not meet, which will give you an opportunity to eventually show them why they would be better off working with you.

If hosting or attending events is not your thing, there are other strategies to consider, and I will be sharing more of them over the next few posts.

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How to Effectively Keep In Touch with Prospective Clients

April 11, 2017

In a previous post, I introduced the idea of “Passive Loyalty” and the likelihood that the majority of your ideal clients are currently working with your competition, but they are indifferent towards them at best.

There are a number of highly-effective ways you can get on the radar of these folks to disrupt the indifference they have towards their current provider.

Before I share some tactics for attracting these ideal prospects in your pipeline, there may be an opportunity within your existing database to explore. And it starts with a confession.

I once followed up with a prospective client 30 times over a three-year period. I met this person, let’s call him Jim, at a golf tournament and we hit it off. Jim asked about my business, and then, while handing me his card said, “Shoot me an email. I’m not in love with my existing Financial Advisor and may be looking to make a change soon.”

I followed up with Jim a few times initially suggesting we get together, but the timing wasn’t right.

Jim wasn’t thrilled with his existing advisor and knew that I was likely a better option, but his current advisor was good enough. I know now this was a classic example of passive loyalty.

The silver lining is that he (like many people we meet) asked me to “keep in touch.” If you are like me, you have met a number prospective clients (whether they knew it or not) who weren’t interested in hiring you initially but asked you to follow up in the future.

My process back then was to communicate with them every 30 days, usually via email. These emails were primarily used to offer help and were typically void of anything concrete (i.e., “Hope things are good with you” and “Let me know if now is a better time to get together.”)

Despite almost never working, I sent 100’s of these types of emails.

One day, a few years after meeting Jim, he replied to one of my “check-in” emails where I had asked him what was new by telling me about his new sports car. I said, “Congrats!” and made a note to follow up with him again in a month.

Later that day during a meeting with a new client, we were reviewing their auto insurance policy. (Even though I am not licensed to sell auto insurance, it is something we review for all of our financial planning clients.)

This client, like most people I come across, had a glaring hole in their policy. They had the minimum amount of something called “Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage.” (In case you are interested, Uninsured Motorist Coverage protects you if you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t carry liability insurance. Underinsured Motorist Coverage kicks in when you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver whose liability limits are too low to cover the damage or medical expenses.)

Essentially, if you are in an accident that is not your fault, with a driver who is not adequately insured (or uninsured), you are screwed. Our clients have always appreciated us for pointing this out, especially since no one else has previously brought it to their attention.

I then realized the real possibility that Jim’s advisor had never discussed this with him. I sent him an email to ask if he had the right type of coverage on his new car. Long story short – he did not. He was grateful that I brought this to his attention and equally concerned as to why his other advisors failed to do so.

He replied by saying, “Okay, we need to get together. Who knows what else my advisor has failed to notice.”

Jim has now been a loyal client for over 5 years.

The reason my email to Jim worked as well as it did (even though it was the 30th email I had sent to him) was because I was suggesting something that would not generate any revenue for me. You can send relevant and useful emails that directly pertain to your core offering, but they are not nearly as effective as sending something on the fringes.

If a real estate agent sends you an email with a new listing, it seems self-serving (even if it’s sent with the best of intentions). If the same real estate agent sends you an email about how to title your existing home properly, the perception is they are purely adding value.

If your communication efforts with some prospects have gone stale, consider providing them with ideas and tips for things outside the scope of your services (especially if it’s likely they don’t hear about it from their current advisors).

I’ll be back soon with some effective strategies you can use to grab the attention of your competitors’ passively loyal clients!

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How Many Clients Will You Lose This Year?

March 11, 2017

How Many Clients Will You Lose This Year?

Each year, author Rohit Bhargava shares his thoughts on the trends that will shape business and consumer behavior in the coming year. Non-Obvious 2017: How To Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict The Future, is another excellent addition to his series of books as it includes many thought-provoking predictions.

The one that stood out for me in this installment is what Bhargava calls “Passive Loyalty.” I think understanding this concept will present you with two types of massive opportunities for your business.

Reviewing Your Client Base

A recent report for the automotive insurance industry from consulting firm McKinsey showed there was “a significant number of customers who are loyal in name only…they remain with their carrier more out of inertia than satisfaction.”

Another research study cited in Bhargava’s book on the nature of passive vs. active loyalty dubbed this phenomenon as a consumer’s “state of inertia.” It concluded that “a passively loyal consumer might buy the same brand for 5 or 6 time periods out of inertia (‘lock-in’), but after that, she is likely to include other brands in her consideration set.”

The first opportunity you have, which is the primary focus of his prediction, lies in turning passively loyal clients into actively loyal clients before they leave. The best place to start is by performing an audit of your current client base. How many of your clients are passively loyal, as opposed to “Raving Fans”? If you have a hard time making this distinction with certain clients, you should probably assume they are passive.

I agree with Bhargava in that “The business opportunity is to operationalize ways to transform these people…into being actively loyal instead.”

From Passive to Active Loyalty

Once you have identified your passively loyal clients, there are a number of things you can do to convert them. If you provide certain services that some of your clients are not taking advantage of, now would be a good time to remind them of all you offer. A good example of this is when your credit card company proactively contacts you with suggestions for ways you can use your points. If you aren’t using the points you accumulate, you’re not getting the full value of being their customer. Motivating you to use your points is one way of increasing the likelihood you won’t jump ship to a competitor.

I think the best thing you can do right now is to reach out to your clients via a quick call or email. There are questions you can ask to gauge how they feel about you. You can also pose questions that will allow you to provide them more value going forward.

One example Bhargava suggests is, “If we could keep your business for the next two years, what would we need to do?” You may also consider asking “The Ultimate Question” (as referred to in the next paragraph). This will help you get your Net Promoter Score for each client. These types of questions can help you get a feel for who is actually loyal and who may be taking their business elsewhere in the near future.

Regardless of your industry, you can be more valuable to your existing clients in a variety of ways that have nothing to do with your core offering. Being that we just started a new year, I like to ask my clients “The Ultimate Question.” This is where I call clients and ask them what their biggest area of focus is for 2017. I also ask what opportunities or challenges they are facing this year.

Their answers could lead to you being a resource for them by way of ideas and introductions. Of course, this leads to more active loyalty.

Our Huge Opportunity

While Bhargava focused primarily on identifying and converting our passively loyal clients, I am even more excited about the opportunity we have to get on the radar of our competitor’s passively loyal clients.

The majority of your ideal clients are likely passively loyal towards their current provider. The bad news is that most of them are comfortable (for now) and indifferent to making a change. The good news is they would be quick to make the switch once they see how much better it could be with you.

I think finding ways to effectively disrupt the indifference of these prospective clients is the key to unlocking massive growth for your business over the next few years. I am going to be sharing ideas and strategies around this idea over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts. Are you able to identify who among your clients is passively vs. actively loyal? What are some of the things you do to increase retention and actively loyal clients?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Can Tidying Up Really Be Life-Changing?

June 4, 2015

tidyAfter seeing a variety of posts and articles about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It had been on the NYT Bestseller List for 24 weeks (30 as of this writing), but still, I was skeptical about how “life-changing” a book about getting organized could be.

Turns out the book is excellent.

Kondo’s approach to tidying up your space includes techniques that are both logical and emotional. She suggests that focusing on specific locations is a fatal mistake, because most people tend to store the same type of item in more than one place. Instead, she recommends tidying by category. For example, instead of deciding to clean by room or drawer, focus on clothes, then books, etc.

She believes one of the reasons most of us fail to tidy up effectively is that we focus on what we want to get rid of, not what we want to keep.  She says the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in your hands and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.

The bottom line is I am a believer! Melanie and I have been implementing Kondo’s process over the past couple of weeks and so far, we have produced 25+ bags of donations/trash. Not only is our physical space less cluttered, but I am noticing some other benefits as well – like more clarity and better decision making.

Rather than write a detailed review here, I decided the best way to get you into this book is to pass along a link to my notes. I still recommend reading the entire book, but this will give you most of the essentials.

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Intentional Working and Living: Beyond Productivity Tools

January 29, 2015
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What are the best networking events to attend?

September 25, 2014

The short answer? Whichever ones have the potential to be a success in multiple ways.

If you’ve read my book, you know I’m not a big fan of most traditional networking events. However, there are certain instances where they can be incredibly valuable if properly leveraged.

If you’re considering going to an event that is only offering the opportunity to connect with other professionals, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. In order for an event like this to be a good investment of your time and money, you’ll have to connect with several relevant, like-minded people. If you don’t meet anyone worthwhile, you’ll have lost time and money that you can never get back.

With no shortage of events to choose from, there are a few things I look for when deciding which ones to attend, and I suggest you do the same.


You probably have a good idea of who you’d like to meet (either a specific person, or folks in certain industries or positions), and most events will provide some clues around who is likely to attend.

If there is a published guest list on the registration page, give it a quick scan to see if you recognize any names (or industry segment) you would like to connect with. For cadre YOUniversity events, we list the names, companies and job titles of attendees (all of whom are carefully vetted), so it’s easy to see that our events are geared to CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs.

You should also look for events that are specific to certain industries or job titles in your sweet spot. For example, if your business and the value you can provide others centers around companies that are growing, attending an event that specifically focuses on high-growth businesses (which attracts high-growth founders) would position you for success versus a generic event with the word “mixer” or “party” in the title.

Bear in mind, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll connect with anyone in a meaningful way. This risk comes with the territory. Just because someone has a certain job title or a similar target market doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll share your approach to developing professional relationships. This is why content matters. And to that point I would also include…


If a networking event is featuring a world-class speaker, or a panel of experts discussing a topic that’s of interest to you, a lot of the risk is removed. Even if you’re unimpressed by the other attendees, there’s a good chance you’ll be glad you went if you pick up a few game-changing ideas for your business. That said, you should still try to find events with great information AND attendees, since you can probably find some version of the presentation on YouTube. (For example one of the best recurring events in DC that meets both criteria is Connectpreneur.)

Gary Vaynerchuk presenting at a cadre event

Gary Vaynerchuk presenting at a cadre event

Now that you know what to look for in an event, you’ll want to make sure you optimize the opportunity.


If I identify an event that’s featuring a great speaker and/or the expected attendees seem to be the types of folks I want to meet, my next step is to think of who else I know that could benefit from attending.

If I bring a client (prospective clients and strategic partners also do nicely) and can introduce them to some great ideas (via the speaker) and/or people (via attendees that I know), I will deepen my relationship with that person. I don’t have to rely on connecting with other attendees to validate the investment I made by attending.

Taking this a step further, I almost always offer my client the opportunity to bring someone else along. I do this for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is that my client will get credit for introducing someone in their network to some great content and/or people. In the very least, they will probably get more out of the event by sharing the experience with a key member of their network.

The second reason—which should NOT be your motivation for doing this—is that I’ll get the opportunity to meet and interact with someone who could end up being a prospective client or a valuable addition to my network. However, I never follow up with this person in a business context unless they ask me to. If your client gets the impression that your motive in all of this was to pitch to someone in their network, it will make them look bad and reflect poorly on you.

Do you have a process for determining the best networking events to attend? Have you leveraged other companies’ events as a way to play host to your clients and network? How did it work out?

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The Best Conference of the Year for Entrepreneurs: MastermindTalks (and a recap of all 20+ presentations)

July 2, 2014
MastermindTalks creator Jayson Gaignard

MastermindTalks creator Jayson Gaignard

For the second year in a row, I attended what will almost certainly be my favorite conference of the year. MastermindTalks, the brainchild of Jayson Gaignard, is unique in that it delivers both transformational content AND superb networking.

Most of the conferences I attend are focused around a particular topic (social media, wealth management, etc.) and only attract attendees who are interested in that central theme. If I’m lucky the information is good, because it’s unlikely I’ll make a ton of meaningful connections.

MTalks is built from the inside out. Jayson starts by carefully selecting the attendees to ensure that everyone in the room is a good fit. To give you an idea, he receives over 3,000 applications and only extends an invitation to 125. The quality of the attendees truly sets this conference apart. For the second year in a row, I met several remarkable people who could have easily been one of the presenters (several of last year’s presenters were, in fact, attendees this year). And of course, I love the idea of vetting for the highest caliber attendee, as it’s the same model we use when selecting members for cadre.

Melanie and I enjoying a breakout dinner with our friends (old and new).

Melanie and I enjoying a breakout dinner with our friends (old and new).

Once he establishes who will be attending, Jayson selects speakers based on who will provide the most value for his audience. He handpicks 20+ topic-agnostic experts to give TED-style talks, and the amount—and range—of information they share is life-changing. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with all of them (I have linked their names to their website, Twitter profile, etc, where relevant):

Cameron HeroldCameron is a friend who previously headlined a cadre event, where he introduced his “Painted Picture” process. Painting a picture has to do with using creative exercises like imagination and free association to bring the future you envision into the present and get clarity on what you’re building now. You end up with a detailed overview of what your business will be like three years out. It really is transformational, and I recommend it for all types of businesses. You can learn more and see Cameron’s own Painted Picture here.

Marcus Sheridan — Marcus is a great friend and cadre member. I never tire of seeing him present, as he is one of the best in the world. His approach to attracting prospective clients via your blog and website is to identify the questions they’re asking and provide the most straightforward and honest answers. Forget about buzzwords like blogging, inbound marketing and social media marketing, and see these things for what they actually are: listening, communicating and being the best teacher in your industry. His blog is a must for anyone who’s serious about identifying more clients via their website.

Ted Whitling – The Director of Surveillance at ARIA Casino Las Vegas, Ted looks for anomalies in data and human behavior to identify anyone who might be cheating or gaming the system. He says, “We identify the weird; the money is in the weird” – which can be very applicable as an ethical way to uncover opportunities in your business.

Esther Perel – Recognized as one of the world’s most original and insightful voices on personal and professional relationships, Esther gave a presentation titled “From the Boardroom to the Bedroom.” In her fascinating talk, she suggests that many of us struggle with balancing our need for both adventure (freedom) and stability (security), and that we use up all of our passion at work and “bring home the leftovers.” One of the many tips I loved from her, pertaining to those of us who regularly schedule a date night, is to find 15-20 minutes a day or two earlier to catch up on the kids, priorities around the house, etc., so you can focus on having a fun adult conversation while on your date. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with her and her wisdom.

Dave Asprey – It turns out the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, which I’ve been drinking for four months and love, has a ton of insight that goes way beyond my favorite caffeinated drink. Dave provided us with advice focused more around managing our energy, as opposed to our time. As a “biohacker,” he is constantly testing the environment inside and outside of his body to improve things like his health and sleep.

Dave Asprey, Founder of The Bulletproof Executive, rocking a pair of blue blocking glasses.

One tip: The standard lighting (blue) emitted from your screens (computer, phone, etc.) is hurting your sleep. Put on a pair of blue-blocking glasses and download Flux to enable red lighting. This will help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep throughout the night. There’s too much wisdom to cover here, so I strongly suggest checking out his website to learn more.

Steve Sims – The founder of Bluefish, a high-end concierge company, suggests we all do what he does and “create smiles, not transactions.” While Steve is the man to see if you want a monumental experience like attending the Grammys or going on a submersible dive to view the Titanic, he also says you don’t have to go big to make a big impression. For example, when he’s traveling, Steve will frequently rip articles out of magazines and send them to clients using the hotel’s stationery. Letting your key clients know you’re thinking about them when you’re on the road is a great way to deepen relationships.

Ben Greenfield – This world-class triathlete and NYT bestselling author of Beyond Training is also the father of 6-year-old twins. His presentation, “How to Grow Tiny Superhumans,” which made him a co-winner (along with Renee Airya) of the event’s $25,000 prize for best talk, was incredibly useful to me as a parent of two young boys. Here are a few of the unconventional gems he offered up for anyone with young children:

  • Let them get dirty. Exposing your kids to bacteria and germs will help them develop a better immune system. Stop using antibacterial soap and consider skipping the baths more often (his boys get one every three days).
  • Let them eat fat. More healthy fat = a more developed immune system. Ben suggests bone marrow (bake it in their veggies), grass-fed butter and egg yolks, to name a few.
  • Let them fight. Roughhousing makes kids more socially mature, and how a child deals with pain and discomfort is more predictive of first grade scores than their Kindergarten scores.
  • Let their feet free. Have your kids go barefoot around the house, which will improve their lifelong posture, among other things. Wearing protective shoes too often will cause their foot muscles to atrophy.

One other important takeaway from Ben was to unplug your router at night. The EMFs emitted from your wi-fi router can be harmful to growing kids. Since their cells are rapidly dividing, they absorb much more of the radiation than adults.

Melanie and I are already implementing a lot of what we picked up from Ben and look forward to learning more via his blog.

Aubrey Marcus – The founder of puts a premium on telling the truth and being as honest as possible, and assumes his customers are wired this way too. For example, his return policy not only gives them a money-back guarantee, but also lets them keep the product! He believes most consumers keep products they are unhappy with to avoid the hassle of returning them – then stay unhappy and stop being a customer. Trusting his customers allows him to get more feedback and retain more of them.

Renee Airya – In her inspiring talk, “Flip Your Flaws,” this successful entrepreneur and model shared her journey, which began with having massive brain surgery in 2004 and falling into the less than 3 percent that get facial paralysis. A nerve had been severed, and she went from modeling a perfect smile to not being able to move the right side of her face. While overcoming this setback, she learned that “flaws are gateways to our sincerity.” One key takeaway for anyone whose life has been dramatically altered is to stop comparing yourself to the person you were and focus on what makes you unique. Renee’s story touched everyone in some way, so it was no surprise when she was announced as a co-winner for best talk along with Ben Greenfield. She has a lot to share and a ton of inspiration on her website.

Todd Tzeng – This investor and turnaround specialist shared the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey. One idea of his that I love is to plan your perfect day. What time would you wake up? Who would you spend time with? What would you do? He acknowledged it would be difficult to live out this day on a regular basis, but understanding who and what is important to you will guide you in the choices you make.

Robbie Richman – The author of The Culture Blueprint and co-creator of Zappos Insights shared how he focused more on what not to do when he created a world-class business culture. Like Michelangelo sculpting David, Robbie suggested we chip away at the things that do not represent our culture. He also suggested we avoid trying to please everyone, citing Tony Hsieh: “Most businesses don’t die of starvation; they die of indigestion.”

Michael Norton – I was excited to see Michael as I am a big fan of his book, Happy Money. This Professor of Marketing at Harvard discussed research that shows the importance of transparency in the buying process. Specifically, if you show customers the work you’re doing, they will be more likely to trust you (and buy from you).

He told the story of a master locksmith who shared that he sometimes takes longer than he needs to do the job so people don’t think he’s ripping them off. The interesting thing is that this also applies to work done by a computer. Sites like Orbitz and Kayak both show a progress bar while searching for flight options, but Kayak tells you specifically what the computer is working on, i.e. “now searching United flights.” Even if people have to wait longer, they will buy more frequently if they think more work is being done to personalize their search results.

Dr. Nick Morgan– This presentation and communication coach highlighted the importance of body language when presenting. Some keys for tapping into the unconscious minds of your audience include using “open up” gestures (no hand clenching) and having a confident, upright posture, which creates mirroring. One tip for the ladies: When someone’s pelvis is out they’re communicating flirting, so remember to tuck in your abs while wearing high heels.

Michael Port– Right on cue following Morgan’s presentation, the author of the excellent Book Yourself Solid, did as good a job of using body language as anyone I’ve ever seen (with the possible exception of Sally Hogshead). Rather than drop some savvy business ideas on us, which he could easily have done, he talked about an eating disorder that held him back at various times throughout his career. He suggested we all have some secret or unhealthy habit that is holding us back and that we subconsciously marginalize our efforts so others won’t find out. The sooner we identify and deal with this thing, we can show up as we are and make a bigger impact on those we touch.

Michael Port encouraging us to think big.

Michael Port encouraging us to think big.

Guy Kawasaki– During a Q&A with the multiple bestselling author and former Chief Evangelist at Apple, Guy offered up a variety of helpful tools and ideas. When asked about his former role at Apple, he stated that “the key to great evangelism and marketing is to do it on behalf of great stuff.” After admitting that he owns an Android because it is superior to the iPhone (I’ve been saying this for two years), he talked about how much more important value is than price—which is why it’s been a while since people lined up outside an Apple store to buy their newest product. He also shared a number of quotes from Steve Jobs. My favorite was “I’d rather have a hole in my business than an asshole.”

Philip Mckernan– I had not previously heard of this author of Rich On Paper, Poor On Life, but boy was I impressed. He began by saying, “Entrepreneurs are great at two things: complicating their lives and justifying why they do it.” According to Philip, “the path to an authentic and meaningful life starts with questioning the one you are already on.” While running a business, we have many choices and sometimes all these options prevent us from acting on any of them. He suggests, “In the absence of clarity, take action. The more we do this, the more we will trust ourselves.”

Steve Sisler– Steve is a behavioral profiler and lead Behavioral Analyst at The Behavioral Resource Group. As conference attendees, we were given the opportunity to take a DISC test to learn more about ourselves. He shared insights on how to get more out of our strengths and how we can improve in our areas of weakness. I highly recommend going through this process and becoming more aware of what you bring to the table (and what you don’t).

Meg Hirshberg– It was a real treat to hear the story of the non-entrepreneurial wife of the founder of Stoneyfield Yogurt, a super-successful company that failed to turn a profit for the first nine years. The author of For Better or For Work compared her journey to being the passenger in a car on a curvy road, in that it’s much harder when you are not in control and cannot anticipate the twists and turns. Meg suggested that anyone in a relationship with someone who is not wired like an entrepreneur should consider withholding information about the business, explaining that this is “not about babying your spouse, but about respecting their smaller appetite for risk.”

Hal Elrod– We were treated to a bonus session with Hal, whom I had recently discovered while listening to a podcast interview with him. Hal’s story, which includes being clinically dead for six minutes and told he would never walk again, and then walking again in a few months is incredible. He shared the insights behind his bestseller, The Miracle Morning, which I just finished and highly recommend. I’ve never been a morning person, but he has convinced me of its power and I am excited to give it a try!

Again, I strongly encourage you to look further into what all of these amazing minds have to say. And if you come across anyone or anything that really strikes a chord, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments below.

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