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You Gotta Give To Get

May 12, 2008

My business mentor and coach Andrew Morrison tells me that sometimes in business “you gotta give to get”. Intuitively, I understood this to mean providing something of value to a colleague or prospect at no cost. This philosophy is consistent with the word of mouth tactic of giving people something to talk about.

I decided to put this philosophy into practice after I attended the Connecticut Minority Supplier Development Council (CMSDC) Annual Awards Banquet on Thursday May 1.

The CMSDC is the Connecticut affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Their mission is to significantly increase the procurement opportunities between corporate members and certified minority owned businesses. Dr. Fred Mckinney, President of CMSDC has all of the characteristics of the type of Advocate we have cited often on this blog. He is passionate, credible and connected. So when Dr. Fred talks about a business, people in the right places tend to listen. Among some of the heavy hitters in attendance at this year’s Annual Awards Banquet, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal and State Treasurer Denise Nappier.

Our company, gL market Research is a full service marketing consulting firm specializing in market research, brand management, public relations and word of mouth marketing. It is no surprise therefore that word of mouth is an important part of our marketing plan. And so we are always looking for the right stuff for our Advocates and Evangelists (A&Es) to use in spreading positive word of mouth about our company.

So I’m sitting there at the CMSDC Annual Awards Banquet, which by the way was arguably one of the best business awards event I have ever attended. It was truly a high energy, high quality, high tech experience. But anyway, I’m sitting there surrounded by corporate purchasers from some of Connecticut’s largest companies including, Pitney Bowes, Northeast Utilities, Aetna, The Hartford and Liberty Bank to name just a few. Also in attendance were some of the most successful Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) in the State including, among others, RCI Telecom, Light Speed and commVerge Marketing. Light Speed and commVerge Marketing are Connecticut based marketing companies that have impressive track records of achievement and A-List clients.

I morphed into consultant mode, some time before the surf and turf entree but after the cocktail reception and advised my client….me…to provide the CMSDC something of value at no cost at all, in other words “give to get”.

And so we created a web based program evaluation tool to assess attendee perceptions of CMSDC programs and/or events, in this case the Annual Banquet. We offered the tool, analysis and reporting of the findings, essentially a market research project at no cost. By doing this we were able to provide a tangible example of our services and hopefully have opened the door to the beginning of a productive relationship.

Now I could have stood in line at the end of the Banquet and given the standard elevator speech about our company to Dr. Fred along with my business card. But then that would have made for a boring post and I wouldn’t have this to talk about. Instead, I decided to give to get.

Well to my pleasant surprise Dr Fred responded. He liked the idea and in fact, posted the link to the survey and cited gL Market Research in his weekly newsletter that following Monday. So by following the give to get philosophy we were able to get our name in front of hundreds of potential clients. The value of this promotion far exceeded the cost for providing the tool.

The takeaway for small businesses: Identify an Advocate and give them something to talk about to create positive word of mouth

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