Whether you’re “online” or “brick and mortar”, you need to have an online presence. Aside from the more obvious ways of advertising, one often overlooked and underappreciated strategy is networking. But networking has come such a long way from just a handshake and handing out business cards.

Networking is making initial connections and building on them. It’s seeing your “competition” as your greatest collaborators instead. It’s creating meaningful and authentic relationships that keep you forefront in their minds so they are more likely to refer you to others.

Rich: Jodi Flynn is the founder of Women Taking the Lead, a podcast and community of ambitious, entrepreneurial women who want to go big. She works with women who are already successful but have not yet achieved the level of success that they want to achieve. Jodi helps her clients set priorities, get organized and remove obstacles so that they can achieve their biggest goals with ease.

She became an Amazon best-selling author with the release of her book, Accomplished: How to Go from Dreaming to Doing. Jodi, welcome to the show.

Jodi: It’s so great to be here Rich, thank you for having me on. And for those that are listening, I am actually a fan, I listen to every episode that you put out. I am just honored to be here.

Amber: This is so fun. I love that its girl power today, Rich. This is the best ever.

Rich: As the father of two daughters, I am all about empowering women to be all that they can be.

Amber: I know. That’s one of my favorite things about you.

Rich: I think that’s the only thing you like about me.

Amber: It might be.

Amber: So I want to jump right in. So how did you get into this whole concept of business coaching, and specifically how did you start Women Taking the Lead?

Jodi: It’s a long story so let me try to condense it. I used to work in corporate and I was an Assistant Vice President. I worked in operations for a mutual fund company. I did the whole corporate thing for a long time until I went through two positions. And for anyone that knows about or has gone through it, it’s an emotional roller coaster and can be a bit of a nightmare.

And keeping it tight, let’s just say I went into coaching after a long reflecting and searching and knew it was the right thing for me. But when I thought about what type of coaching I wanted to do, I wanted to be as far away from corporate and business as I possibly could when I first started coaching. So I was a life coach at first and I was going to coach mom’s on how to take care of themselves and put themselves first and have balance in their lives, all with really good intentions but no street cred, because I’m not a mom.

And so the wakeup call for me was when a couple of women in my networking group reached out to me and both said – in different conversations – essentially the same thing, “I’m not a mom but I want a coach and I’d like you. Can you coach me around my business?” And I said yes. It’s the same process, different jargon, we can do this.

And the more clients I got through my coaching around leadership and business, I was laughing at myself because I was like, what was I thinking. This is my wheelhouse, this is what I’m good at, my zone of genius, so let’s go with this coaching around business and leadership.

And why I decided to start the podcast, actually Rich you were one of the people that inspired me to start my podcast when you were starting yours.

Amber: Geez, that’s going to go straight to his head, we try not to do that.

Jodi: I can’t help it, sometimes you just have to tell the truth even when it hurts just a little bit.

Amber: It hurts, that hurts me.

Rich: I’m going to put the last 20 seconds on a loop.

Amber: Every question he’s going to edit that in now, “Rich, you were my inspiration.”

Rich: I won’t need to if she just says it for every answer.

Jodi: Amber, I’ll do what I can to really bring him down from here on out. But it had to be said. I actually was just being interviewed for another podcast and we talked all about how it took me so long to start my podcast, I just resisted it for so long, But Rich was one of the people that said, “You should have a podcast, how do you not have a podcast?” And with his support and the support of some other people in our community I got it done.

When I was reflecting on what should my topic be – because being a generic business coach – you can’t just say it’s a podcast for business coaching because it’s too broad. And when I thought about what do I want to niche down into – and this was the direction my business was going in – I wanted to help more women. I see so many women hold themselves back, they have so much self-doubt and they’re so hard on themselves and so they don’t really step up as leaders or they don’t go after what they want to do. And I wanted my podcast to be some inspiration, some motivation, to talk to other women who were up to things in the world, to inspire those who are listening to believe that they could do it. And so that was March of 2015 so I’m just about to hit my 2 year anniversary now.

Rich: Congratulations on that.

Jodi: Thank you.

Rich: I know we were going to talk about networking and the new state of networking. We live in a world where we spend a lot of time using tools like Facebook, Pinterest; so much of our time is spent online. Is traditional networking dead?

Jodi: No. Oh my goodness. And I know your business is set up this way, my business is as well, and Amber you can definitely let me know about your business. But I think of my business as a “hybrid business”. There are people who say they have an “online business” and then there are people that say they have a “brick and mortar”. But the reality is, more businesses have to do both. You have to have an online presence and you also need to have a local presence.

The local presence is this is where you put down roots on your tree, and then your online business springs out form there. And if you think about it, the whole intention of doing online marketing is so you can have direct connections with a lot of your customers.

Now I know there are people who listen who are like, we just sell products and widgets online, we don’t ever talk to our customers. But probably for 90% of us, client/customer interaction, that’s what makes the wheels go round in our business.

Amber: Yeah, I actually can testify to that. Because I’m the opposite of you, I have a lot of children, so when I started my business I was so focused on giving really good service to my clients that networking was something that I left in the backseat. And I think it affected my business negatively as I grew. I have a large number of clients and they think I’m the bomb diggity, but that vendor to vendor referral – which is so huge in the wedding industry – I negated it saying things like, if I’m not working, I want to be with my kids. And I can see how that’s true, yes I need to be with my kids, but I can see how it also affected my business negatively.

And so now that’s actually been one of my goals as a business this past year and the season before is to really start networking and getting myself out there because I’ve seen that it actually affects your business better by doing it that way.

Jodi: Absolutely. And there are two terms for the referrals that we receive. There are “transactional” referrals and there are “relational” referrals. You can spend a lot of time with your clients and they will likely refer other people that they know to you because you provided them such good service, but it will typically be a transactional referral. It’s a one-time buy or if you’re really good at what you do, you might be able to offer products and services to the clients so they buy more from you.

But it’s very limited to them and their world and what they need from you, as opposed to the vendors who are a “relational” referral. If someone can introduce you to a vendor that you could build a relationship with and a partnership with, that vendor could constantly be sending you transactional referrals.

So for you, Amber, what profession typically sends you referrals?

Amber: It’s a tie between venues, people that own a venue that need a planner, so they see this event and decide it has a lot of pieces and they want a planner so that it runs smoothly, here’s my girl Amber who I love, go see her.

Second is people who have worked with me in the past at any event and I made their day better. So a photographer or a caterer – someone I’ve worked with in the past – they want me to be hired because it makes their day easier on site. So those are the two, and I never took that into consideration when I started eons ago.

Jodi: Yeah, and now imagine what it would be like if your marketing strategy for the next year is to meet more venue owners, meet more photographers and meet more caterers.

Amber: Yeah girl, let’s do it.

Jodi: Right! Now you’re just intensifying the potential of getting referrals from these people. And some of that happens online and some of it happens offline, in person or over the phone.

Rich: Well let’s talk about that, about connecting with our competitors. And I’ve heard about the wedding industry that sometimes there’s not as much sharing as there could be and people play their cards close to their vest. So strictly speaking from an online perspective, whether you’re somebody like Amber who is a wedding planner , or a photographer, or videographer, or a venue, how would you recommend that we connect with our competitors online?

Jodi: If you’re doing yourself online, I would say promote them. Are they putting on a blog, do they have a Facebook page, can you share their stuff, can you comment on it. Put yourself on their radar. And this is the thing, there aren’t too many people who have direct competitors where a competitor does 100% what they do. Normally there’s some shades of gray where there’s opportunity to refer.

So for example, I do business coaching but I don’t do business plans or marketing plans. I’m not looking at finances and P&L reports, I’m more of the soft skills, the mindset, and self-management type thing. So I’m actually looking to meet other business coaches who provide services that I don’t – especially the ones who don’t necessarily provide the services that I provide – and so if I can online comment positive stuff (“great article”, “thanks for hosting”) and share it with my community and pump them up, they’re probably going to be more open to making a connection.

And if I do send a message I can say I’ve been following them for a while and I love their stuff, I think there might be some opportunities for us to pass referrals. And especially, “I can see opportunities for me to pass you referrals. Would you be interested?” And if they’re local I might ask if we can grab a coffee sometime. Or if they’re across the country I might ask if we can jump on a Skype or a Zoom call and talk about potential, I’d like to get to know you better. When you do good first for somebody else, they’re more likely to be open to giving you some of their time.

Rich: I just want to kind of jump on that because I think that’s an excellent point. I know that in my own industry there are people who are more like competitors that I’m more likely to give referrals for business that isn’t a good fit for flyte, and ones who I will probably never give business to. And so I do think it comes down to two things: do I think they’re going to do a good job, but also my personal feelings towards that person.

And in terms of just some tactical ideas, Jodi, of how to keep on top of what our competitors and or potential referrers are doing, I’m just thinking about signing up for their email newsletters, I’m thinking of creating a list in Twitter of all my competitors so I kind of see what they’re doing so I can easily retweet and ‘like’ their stuff, about liking their page from my page so that I can go into my page and see what all my competitors are doing more easily.

And that just makes it easier for people to keep tabs on their competition, but also to share what they’re doing. More or less what you’re saying to do, but just tactical ways in which people might be able to accomplish that.

Jodi: Amen, those ae all great things. And I don’t know about you but when somebody hits ‘reply’ on my newsletter and tell me it was really great that makes my day.

Rich: And you also see that person, too.

Jodi: Yes.

Rich: It’s one of those things where the more often you see somebody – in most cases – the more you like them, because there is a certain amount of trust being built up.

Jodi: Right. And this is human nature, we like people who like us. We like people who laugh at our jokes. It’s going to sound so strange but this is true with all of us, if we’re funny, we assume we are highly intelligent, good people.

Rich: Well in my case that’s true.

Amber: I have a question. So obviously wedding professionals need to work together, and Rich is absolutely right, it is a sticking point in our business. Besides the ways Rich suggested – email newsletters and Twitter – what are some other ways we can connect with competitors?

Jodi: Sometimes it’s easy just to send a message. I’ll be honest, some of the people who I’ve invited to be guests on my podcast sent me messages. But it wasn’t the spammy, “Hey I have a lot to offer you, why don’t I be a guest on your podcast.” It’s been something like, “Hey we’re in the same group and I notice some of the things that you’re hosting, if you have some time I’d love to take 20min or a half hour to get to know you better, I think I might be able to promote you.”

Things like that caught my attention. It was real, it was genuine, it’s online, but it’s human. And that’s what we connect with. I can’t tell you how many emails I get through my website or messages I get through LinkedIn and all the things that are about what’s in it for them, and it’s so blatantly clear. It’s not that I want to be 100% selfish all the time but we are operating from that place and we’re business owners, so we have to be strategic with our time. If I’m going to give you my time, what can you promise that I’ll get back other than a really great 20-minute conversation.

Amber: So the other thing I’m hearing is that it sounds like authenticity is really key. They can’t be cookie cutter, it can’t be like that cheese factor of, “Congratulations on your work anniversary that popped up on LinkedIn”, it has to be authentic and that will stand out and that will make the connection. If you’re going to do something, be authentic about it. Don’t reach out to a competitor that you don’t like or don’t respect or don’t think has a quality service, but go to someone that you actually do admire so that when you’re speaking to them you’re speaking authentically.

Jodi: Absolutely. The people I’ve seen be most successful and I’ve learned all these things from, they don’t forget that they’re human beings talking to another human being even though it’s a typed up message. So even though it’s online, were still human beings, so you want to approach this situation just like you would if you were meeting this person in real life.

You wouldn’t walk up to somebody at a networking event and say, “Hey, I’ve got this really great thing that you should put up on your website.” You would have a real genuine interaction with them. The benefit of online as opposed to at a networking event is you can do the research and get a sense of who somebody is even though you’re only seeing their posts online. You get a sense of their personality, talk to that person.

Rich: And what I was going to say was this information could be taken to manipulate people or to help people. And obviously we’re hoping that all of our listeners are ethical, but doing things like commenting on their blogs, applying to those email newsletters, sharing their stuff on social media, certainly that’s something that can come off as being manipulative. But the goal here is to kind of build awareness of who you are, show that you’re really trying to help them, and it really does come down to being authentic.

The bottom line is we can use these tools and tactics for good or evil, and certainly we’re hoping that we’re using them for good because if you’re in this for the long haul – and I think most of our listeners are – then you want to be doing this the right way and for the right reasons.

Jodi: Absolutely. And to your point, Rich, you want to connect with people that you feel you could have a relationship with. If the stuff they’re putting out doesn’t align with who you are as a business owner, then you probably shouldn’t even be attempting to make that connection, it’s probably not a good fit.

Rich: So we’ve talked a lot about how we are reaching out to these people and some of the steps that we’re taking. Basically we’re sharing their content, and maybe we are joining groups, and then maybe we’re doing some sort of outreach that can be done either in person over coffee or via Skype or Facebook Messenger or maybe just email.

Once we’ve done that, how do you build upon those initial connections? Do you have some sort of formalized approach to keeping your network strong like a spreadsheet, or is it just a gut feel on how you interact with your competitors and your potential referrers?

Jodi: I’ve seen this done several different ways. I’m more an intuitive, go by my gut, who’s on my radar right now. And as a man this may not fly for you, but I have a lot of stream of consciousness in the morning, If I think of somebody I write it down and I reach out to them that day. I’ve talked to women – one of the guests on my podcast – and she has a jar with popsicle sticks in it – actually 2 jars – and on one side of it at the beginning of the month are all the popsicle sticks and they each have a name on I, and she said her goal by the end of the month is she moves each popsicle stick over to the jar on the other side of the desk, and she does that when she reaches out to them. So this could be done on a weekly or monthly basis.

And then I know people who have spreadsheets to make sure that they’re keeping in contact with those they want to keep top of mind. I say know yourself and know your style and what’s going to be the most genuine for you, because for me after a while of just following up with people because my spreadsheet told me today was the day I should reach out to them, it doesn’t feel very genuine or authentic to me.

Rich: So if we don’t like popsicles we should use a spreadsheet, that’s what I’m hearing.

Amber: Or if you hate spreadsheets like me, you use the popsicles.

Rich: Eat more popsicles.

Jodi: Right. Or just go with your gut and reach out to the people that that you’re thinking of.

Amber: So this has actually been really helpful, and this whole concept of authenticity is something that within the Maine wedding industry, there’s been a movement in that that’s been headed by a woman names Maria Northcott, she has really been talking about this being authentic and not thinking of each other as competitors but colleagues. And so this is so applicable and I really want to thank you for your time and I know our listeners are going to want to learn more about you and what you do, so where can we find you online?

Jodi: Absolutely. And Amber I just want to jump on what you said there because that’s actually a lot of what I do. I help business owners get better at networking, and part of that is changing their perspective on their competitors to being their greatest collaborators, because there’s always overlap in businesses. Like Rich said, if you can find somebody who does stuff that you don’t want to do or your business isn’t fashioned for – even though it’s within the same realm – those are the people you can easily refer to and they can refer back to you as well. So thank you for underscoring that.

For those who are listening, you can find me at womentakingthelead.com or you can just email me directly at Jodi@womentakingthelead.com. I love hearing from people and I believe in the personal touch, I always get back.

Rich: Awesome. Jodi this was very helpful and I want to thank you very much for your time today.

Amber: Thank you so much Jodi. Girls rule.

Jodi: Thank you, Amber.


Show Notes:

Jodi Flynn has turned her many years of working in the corporate world into coaching and helping other women become successful by reaching their personal and professional goals. She is a strong advocate for networking the right way by building trust and relationships through authentic interactions. You can find out more about what she does at her website, and be sure to check out her new book.

Amber Small makes a living by making wedding dreams come true. Make sure to reserve your spot now for the Streamline Marketing Workshop Conference that she – along with Rich Brooks – have created specifically for wedding professions, with the goal of helping them reach, connect & engage with their best customers.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and he puts on a yearly conference aimed at that as well. Head on over to Twitter to connect with him, and grab a copy of his brand new book geared towards helping businesses generate more leads.