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Building IMC Relationships to Help Your Business

Posted By Drumm McNaughton FIMC, Saturday, January 30, 2010
Updated: Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy 2010! The year is off to a grand start - I have heard from many of you who have told me that your 2010 is showing many signs of the economy improving - one person  I know is booking clients into May, and I am booking out a few months (nice to be able to spell client again!). However, many of our colleagues are not yet seeing signs of the economic upturn, and are retooling their businesses, focusing on new markets, and building new relationships (which is the focus for this blog).

Many of you have heard me speak that for the last 5 years, most of my business has come from IMC members. For instance, last week I received an e-mail from a member in Pennsylvania referring me to a potential client who is looking for team building and improving employee communications. Yes, because of my position I am known, but it has come from working hard for the Institute, volunteering in multiple roles, and getting myself known as a "go to" person who can make them look good with their referrals - NOT because I am Chair.  Each of you can do that by volunteering at the local and/or national level -- which we know is relationship marketing.

Let's face it - ours is a relationship business.  We network and form relationships with buyers of consulting services to get hired by them, or we volunteer at our local Chambers of Commerce and other organizations to develop referral sources, but many of us don’t think about IMC in that same way. In fact, it is almost the opposite. In the past, many people joined IMC with the expectation that they would "get business," and when they didn't, they were disappointed and resigned their membership. They forgot one of the "laws of the universe" is you must give to get.

Question. Do you refer business to someone you don't know?  NO!  Why would I or anyone else put our reputation on the line with someone we don't know. However, can you get to know someone by volunteering on chapter boards and other committees? ABSOLUTELY!  This is the way to become a magnet for referrals.

Maybe I'm altruistic, but I never volunteered in IMC with the thought of what I could get out of it. However, that is exactly what has happened -- I have established and nurtured relationships which have blossomed into excellent referrals.  For instance, Mark Haas and I have teamed on multiple proposals; when I have a question, he and I discuss it (which frequently become the subject of one of his "Daily Tips" :) ). In a sense, Mark and I have formed a "virtual partnership" which has been nurtured over the last 6 years I have served on the Institute's Board of Directors.  Mark refers business to me that he doesn't want, and vice versa.  This is one of the benefits for serving at the chapter or national level.

One of my fundamental beliefs is that members should benefit from serving at chapters, in skill development, advice and referrals. Take for instance the upcoming Chapter Leadership Summit in Chicago May 6-7.  We are planning a number of sessions which will benefit attendees in both running their chapter AND running their business. Without going into details because the agenda is not set, we are hoping to have a "prominent someone" talk about the state of the consulting industry, Bette Price talk on how to leverage media for publicity for yourselves and your chapters, and a well know speaker talk about the importance of leadership in chapters and our own businesses.  As you can see, we want serving in chapters to be a win-win proposition – one which helps IMC, our members, and YOU as chapter leadership.

So, let us modify John F. Kennedy’s famous line from his inauguration speech, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"; instead, we suggest the following:

"Let us ask what we can do to help one another, and watch us both grow and thrive.”

Take time to volunteer for your local chapter or on one of the national committees.  It will help IMC and be an excellent experience for you, and most importantly, will help you develop your leadership / technical (business) skills, and network you in ways that will get you known and get you more business.  After all, isn't that the biggest reason why we join a professional association?


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