How can you use Leverage for Your Business?

Got leverage?Leverage is a powerful tool. We’ve talked about it at length here. If you missed it, check out SOBCon IS Leverage.

Which is a great definition – and a very abstract one. Let’s make it more immediately applicable for you.

How can you use Leverage, the cornerstone of what SOBCon IS, for your business?

Leverage can be used to get feedback from others – While you’re in person at SOBCon, you can share your troubles with the rest of the people at your table. Don’t worry – they won’t judge you. Chances are, they’re going through the same thing you are – or they just got through what you’re going through. A few years back, I sat at a table with 4 other business owners. We all were struggling to get feedback from our customers. Feedback that we desperately needed to move our businesses forward in a new direction. We talked about survey tools, and the best time to send the survey e-mails, and all sorts of other things about surveys.

We found a solution we all agreed to – and then one person at the table said “What if instead of surveying all our customers, we each agree to call someone else’s 5 best customers and find out what they love (and loathe) about working with the other business owner. Then we can all get honest feedback, not have to worry about our customers feeling like we’re fishing for compliments, and we can all help each other.” And so we did. Instead of a boring e-mail survey, that we all had been delaying for weeks (or in some cases years), we helped each other as soon as the event was over. Simple. Easy. And something I never would have thought to do had I not been at that table.

Leverage can be used to amplify your message and your audience – When you make a friend, you make one more person who might share your work. When you join a community, you get a bunch of people who might share your work. Because SOBCon is such an intimate event, if you want to, you can connect with nearly everyone in attendance, and you can find just the right people to amplify your message and share your work, as well as tons of people who you can share their work, and amplify their message. The collaborative part of SOBCon is one of the most wonderful and amazing parts to me.

Leverage can help you create a better product, something better than you could create by yourself – Everyone has unique talents and skills, and everyone looks at things a little differently than you do. Or maybe it’s just me. I find that

Leverage can be used to test an idea out before you release it to the world – What better test than to work with your peers – and with people who have no idea what you do – all in one? Leverage offers a great way to run an idea past a bunch of people in a short period of time and create your own pre-launch team to gather feedback and make your product or service even better. You might even get a customer or two out of it, like SOBCon alum Jesse Petersen has done with his WordPress design business.

Need more Leverage?

Join us at SOBCon in Chicago, June of 2014. We’ve got Leverage. We are SOBCon.

And if you come, you’ll be Leverage too. You’ll be able to tap into the great minds that have previously gotten Leverage from SOBCon, that are looking to Leverage SOBCon 2014.

SOBCon is Leverage. Leverage is SOBCon.

The only question that remains is are YOU Leverage? Are YOU going to be at SOBCon? Leave a comment and let me know. I can’t WAIT to meet you!

Image courtesy of wikipedia commons

Building Trust In Business: Don’t Get Engaged On The First Date

dice question mark

The subject of “trust in business” comes up a lot.  Recently I had a conversation with Ric Dragon (Author of Social Marketology, speaker, artist, drummer, CEO of DragonSearch & Kred Top50 Marketing Blogger) about this (he’ll be speaking about the subject at SOBCon in Chicago this June).  During our conversation a few key points came up that I’d like to share.  Starting with…


Consider the dating world – whether you’re remember years ago or last Friday.  How do you feel on a first date?  What are you looking for?  What if…

The guy you’re on a date with asks for you name, orders a drink and after one drink suggests you go back to his place?

(If this has happened to you I’m sorry if I brought back an “ugh” memory…)

You probably were uncomfortable which made him uncomfortable which… You get the idea.

What about a date that goes perfect?  Then they guy asks you to marry him at the end of the night?

Uncomfortable again, right?

What’s the point here?

Ric and I had a few discussions (and laughs) along these lines.  The point is business relationships are built on trust and trust comes in stages; there are steps to building it.  The days of the sales funnel from the 1900’s are gone; you can’t break the process or just follow the 7 steps to success in sales and expect people to give you money.  What you ask for (business deals) has to match the level of trust you’ve built with the person (the step you’re at in your professional relationship).

Where should you start?


What is your real motivation for doing things?  What is theirs?

According to Simon Sinek trust in business is the “physical response that you have my best interests at heart.”

To have someone’s best motivations at heart you have to first create trust levels that match invitations.  This goes back to the most animal level of human existence.  The tribe was built for food, shelter and protection from the weather and the wild environment our ancestors lived in.  You needed to trust members of your tribe to protect you when you slept and provide food for families.  Without that trust you couldn’t function and the tribe would fall apart.  The motivation of each member of the tribe had to be transparent and supported by their actions.

Today we’re not fending off saber tooth tigers and spending weeks hunting for food.  We still have the need for trust and we still have those age-old instincts ready to protect us.  Have you ever sat down for a business meeting and quickly felt pressure from the other person?  You knew they just wanted a sale and didn’t care about building a relationship over time; their relationship process is go in for the kill and get the money.

If you push people and go into business situations with the motivation of “get the money” as your primary motivation that’s how other people will feel about you.  What can you do instead?

Change your motivation.  You can go into that same business situation with the primary goal of discovering what their biggest challenge is and finding a solution for that (which may be your product or service).  Part of that discovery might mean a few more meetings.  They’ll respect you more and begin to trust you.

Getting on the same page with clear motivations is what most people miss…  Once you do that you’re on your way to….


There are a lot of team building exercises out there.  Ric brought up the example of one trust exercise:  You’re blindfolded on a platform with a group of people below.  You cross your arms over your chest and fall backwards trusting that the group is going to catch you.  If you don’t believe they will catch you your arms shoot back to protect yourself and break your fall.

How can you be sensitive to this process and build trust faster?  When it comes to other people it’s most important to pay attention to what they do; not just what they say.  The same can be said for you – every action you take says something to people.  Think about how you act in meetings.  When you’re talking to someone show them you have their best interests at heart.

What are you saying to the people in your life every day?

One example (of what not to do) is telling your kids you trust them but then monitoring everything they do on Facebook; checking their text messages and insisting on having their email and other passwords (which, of course you log into regularly).  In that scenario your children won’t learn or feel trust in you no matter what you say – your actions are saying something else.  Loudly.

When you show trust you will create trust.  With that in mind let’s look at a few…


If you want to create amazing connections and an environment of trust in YOUR life here are a few questions from Ric summing up what you should be looking for:

  • Do they have your best interests at heart?
  • Think about the entire experience: Are you acting as if you have their best interests at heart or are you here for yourself?
  • What’s your motivation for engaging with people? Take another look at that through the lens of trust as we’ve discussed.

With this in mind what will you do differently TODAY to build trust in your relationships?

What other ways would you suggest to build trust in the business world?

Ric DragonRic Dragon is the author of Social Marketology and the DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual, both published by McGraw-Hill. He is the CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch, with more than 20 years of extensive experience in graphic design, information architecture, web development and digital marketing



mark-j-carter-sobcon-headshotAbout The Author: Mark J. Carter is the founder of ONE80; his mission is bringing conversations & storytelling back to business… through mentoring (programs, events & marketing).  He currently serves as Vice President of Communications for the Chicago Area Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI).




The SOBCon Difference: Ask Questions, Offer Suggestions, Get Ideas and Feedback

You’ll Be an Active Part of the Process

SOBCon is a bit different from other conferences you’ve been to. All the presentations, sessions and activities are part of an overall curriculum. Yes, it is carefully curated and thoughtfully put together, but this event is more about learning than it is about having an experience. It’s a coordinated learning process.

As a result, this is not an event where you sit passively and listen. You’ll be an active part in the process, and that takes a different frame of mind than you may be used to at events.


Several times over the course of the event, everyone turns away from the front of the room to connect with each other at tables of 5 or 6 people. These Mastermind sessions are where you’ll take the ideas and adapt them to your own business.

The more you put in, the more you get out. By talking through the concepts with colleagues, you’ll understand them better. Be active in the discussion. Listen as others share their situations. Ask questions. Offer suggestions. Share about yourself, too. The best breakthroughs will come when you speak up.

If you’re attending with others from your organization or people you see all the time, don’t sit with them. You can get their ideas and feedback any time. Take this chance to get an outside perspective.

There will be 25 or so table groups at SOBCon. One of them is the right fit for you. If you find yourself at a table that’s not the right match, you can move. Maybe not in the middle of someone’s sentence, but certainly during a break or over lunch. In fact, many people make a point of sitting with a different group on the second day to learn from more diverse people.

Frame of Mind

Besides being an active participant, there are a few more adjustments to your frame of mind that will help you make the most of being in the room.

Since you’ll be meeting a lot of people, plan for introductions. Know how you plan to introduce yourself, what you want people at this event to know about you.

Be your most friendly self. Act like you’re in a small town. Say hello to everyone. Talk to your neighbors, whether at your table, in line, or where ever you find yourself. Throughout the day, take the initiative to break the ice. You’ll discover that everyone at SOBCon is someone interesting. The “make a killing online” crowd doesn’t get attracted to this. And the fact you’re drawn to this event says that you’re doing some pretty cool stuff, too.

Some famous names attend, but don’t be intimidated by that. They aren’t going to be acting or feeling superior. I’ve learned that the “cool kids” are often actually the shy kids. They seem to act cool because they’re introverted, not because they think they’re better than you.

Some non-famous people also attend. It turns out, people you have never heard of are terrific and amazing and worth meeting. Many are well-known, just in a different area. It’s probably the same for you. You’re probably more well known in a local circle, or within your field.

Someone needs to meet you. Veteran attendees may feel like they know everyone, but the truth is that usually a third to a half of the people are new each year. If you’re coming for your first time, you’ll be in great company.

It’s Up to You

With all these differences, SOBCon amplifies the need to participate actively in order to best benefit. You really will get back based on what you put into it. It’s up to you. Own the act of getting what you need.

Influence and Leadership: Value For Your Audience Is The Key

leadership key

When it comes to influence, leadership and creating results there are a lot of paths you can take.  How do you pick the right one?  How do you know how to measure influence?

What does being a truly successful leader really mean?

Great questions I also wondered about; so I called someone who walks the walk every day (and will be speaking at SOBCon this June) – Connie Dieken.   She was voted one of America’s Top 5 Speakers of 2012, 2011 and 2010 by, Connie is one of the nation’s most in-demand thought leaders on executive influence.  That being said; here’s where our amazing conversation recently went…

Before you can talk about influencing other people you have to ask yourself…


Where we spend our time tells us what we value.  The way we spend three of our most important resources unlocks the answer to what we value most.  These three resources are:

  • Time
  • Effort
  • Money

EVERYTHING in life comes down to what you value; it’s the foundation of our days.  It’s important to start by understanding YOUR values.  Quick exercise for success:

Make a list of your top 3 values.  Write them down (or type them out) now.

This will not only help guide your efforts and goals but will also let you know who you should (and shouldn’t) align yourself with personally and professionally.  Once you discover your top 3 values demonstrate and live your values every day.  Don’t make people guess about you; tell them what you’re all about through your actions.

Once you start with yourself it’s time to ask…


Values are not static; it depends on a person’s stage of life personally and professionally.  What you value changes dramatically after having your first child.  What you value at work changes after that promotion of career change.

So how can you discover other peoples’ top values?  Sure, you could ask them.  But according to Connie the best way is to watch what they DO; not just what they SAY.  It’s all about their pattern of action.  I’ve met a lot of people that will say they value giving back and helping other people – but never seem to volunteer or make time to help people that can’t help them.  You’ve probably met people that claim money isn’t important to them but seem to do anything they can to make more.

Discovering other peoples’ values is much easier with social media.  Patterns become more obvious quicker.

Start to notice peoples’ values.  Find the ones that line up with yours.  If you’re selling a product or service find the people who 1) value your product or service NOW and 2) prioritize your product or service high now; this means they’re willing to spend their time, money and efforts with you if you can help them.

Once you discover that it’s time to start…


Once you understand the importance of personal values in relationships it’s time for the rubber to meet the road.  It’s time to start building your ideal network of advisors, customers, and strategic partners.  Doing this successfully is what real influence is all about – ongoing, mutually valuable relationships.

Remember with all the noise out there (online and offline) you have to show them why you’re valuable and important to them.  You don’t engage them; they engage themselves with your mission and message.  They are now in control.  You need to:

  1. CONNECT with what they value/their values
  2. CONVEY that you are offering them value by giving them what they want in the portions they want it in – not what you think they need.
  3. CONVINCE them to do something specific; get them to take action.

Those three steps are the catalyst to creating or reconnecting to a great professional relationship.  This is just the beginning; real relationships aren’t a one-off.  Real relationships are a quick fix.  You need to keep momentum alive and people need to choose to be in a relationship with you.

Who will YOU create a relationship with or reconnect with TODAY?

Connie-Dieken-SOBConConnie is the author and co-author of five books, dedicated to teaching individuals influential leadership, communication and presentation techniques. Her most recent bestselling book, Talk Less, Say More: 3 Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen, takes Connie’s knowledge, research and experience coaching high-powered leaders and condenses it into a fast-paced, no-nonsense guide to teach anyone to be an influential communicator with anyone, anywhere.


mark-j-carter-sobcon-headshotAbout The Author: Mark J. Carter is the founder of ONE80; his mission is bringing conversations & storytelling back to business… through mentoring (programs, events & marketing).  He currently serves as Vice President of Communications for the Chicago Area Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI).

Leveraging Your Relationships For Authentic Content Marketing


The topic of “content marketing” and cutting through the fads surrounding it came up recently in a phone conversation I had with Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder & Strategic Director of Orbit Media Studios.  Knowing Andy’s experienced in this area I shared my curiosity and questions people often ask me.  Things like: What is content marketing, what should you be doing and what shouldn’t you be doing?

The first thing Andy brought up was this important tip:

Whatever you do, please don’t create


“It’s never about the content itself; it’s about the relationships.  And SEO, social media marketing and content marketing are coming back to focusing on the relationships.”  It’s no longer someone sitting in a cubicle punching out “tweaked” copy that Google will like.  People want value and great content, not a page  littered with key word phrases.

Old school SEO was more about the key words than their meaning.  What about now?  Andy points out that semantic search is all about context and meaning to get results that will best help the answer a question for the person searching.  In short PR + Data = SEO.  If you want to do great SEO you need:

  • To talk to people on Twitter; have conversations and share their links too.
  • Do Public Relations; which means you have to pitch.
  • You have to go to (offline) events and make friends.

You have to not only understand your links and traffic stats but it’s even more important to understand your target audiences, what they’re reading and why.  You need people to talk about you online and offline and share your content.  That’s all about the relationships, not just clicks.

Social media has also changed.  Social media activity for the sake of activity is just for fun.  If you want to have social conversations and pass the time that’s a choice to make.  But… Social media marketing has a point; you have goals and a structured plan to meet those goals.



Let’s talk about the analogy: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s around to hear it; does it make a sound?” and compare it to content.  If you create content, put it online and nobody sees or shares it – was it worth creating?

“Just content” falls into the personal blog or hobby market.  It’s created by you, for you and it serves a personal purpose.  If that’s your intention that works.  If your goal is successful marketing with your content you need to do more.

So how can we differentiate between things like

  • Content creation vs. content marketing?
  • Social media activity vs. social media marketing?

Let’s ask and answer this question I posed to Andy…


Marketing means you have a purpose.  You have an audience you want to reach and relationships you want to build.

Content marketing happens when you reach people who:

  • Find your content helpful
  • Believe your content is relevant to their business or career
  • You might be able to help immediately or at a later date and
  • Might be able to help you immediately or at a later date.

In short you’re creating the opportunity to become relevant and important to them as well as finding people and companies who are relevant and important to you.  Those bullet points give you a litmus test to use when you want to create valuable content and successful content marketing campaigns. 


The key lesson behind the first two bullet points: You have to know WHO your target markets are and WHAT they need.  This means that you have to create VALUE for those target markets; the content has to be helpful to them.

The key lesson behind the second two bullet points: Relationships are always a two way street; you have to give to get.  That brings us full circle to the point we first talked about in this post: It’s not about the content itself; it’s all about the relationships created or enhanced by the content.

In closing, Andy shared these tips for you to implement today:

  • Write as if you’re writing for one reader; as if you’re talking to one person.
  • If you don’t feel something while you’re writing: STOP.  This means your audience won’t feel any emotion about your writing either.
  • For your marketing strategy: Answer your audience’s WHY’s.  Remind them why you’re in business, why they’re looking at you and why your product or service matters.

 What relationships will YOU leverage this week to create amazing content?

Andy_Headshot_2Andy Crestodina is a co-founder of Orbit Media, an award winning, 35-person web design company here in Chicago. Andy has written hundreds of articles on topics like email marketing, search optimization, social media and Analytics. He is also the author of Content Chemistry and a two-time veteran of SOBCon. He hopes to see you there in June!




About The Author: Mark J. Carter is the founder of ONE80; his mission is bringing conversations & storytelling back to business… through mentoring (programs, events & marketing).  He currently serves as Vice President of Communications for the Chicago Area Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI).

The 5 W’s to Prepare for SOBCon

Getting the most out of the conference before you go

Once you do the budgeting and registering, you’re just at the beginning of planning. What you get out of a conference depends on what you put into it. This is even more true of SOBCon than other events because of the collaborative way you’ll learn there.

You need to know the five W’s of your conference before you ever go.


  • Who do you want to meet? Think customers, partners, competitors, mentors, and vendors.
  • Who could you cooperate with?
  • Who could send you customers? Who could you send customers to?
  • Who have you talked to several times, and you just need to push it over the edge and get something going with them?


  • What do you want to talk to these people about?
  • What project are you working on that is too big for you alone?
  • What are you most wanting to learn?

When and Where

  • Invite a friend or colleague to join your mastermind for a particular session that relates to a project you’re working on together. You don’t have to stick with one table or one set of people for the entire event.
  • Put together a small group to go to dinner or breakfast together. I like to leave lunches open and see who I happen to connect with.


  • Review the topics that will be presented. Think about how they relate to your business. What key points will you listen for during that topic?
  • Think through your goals for the event. Make an index card with a summary and take it with you.

A few other points

  • Follow the #SOBCon discussion on Twitter. It’s the best place to interact with other attendees before the event.
  • Order some business cards or have a ready alternative prepared. I still use a few at each SOBCon.
  • Post something relevant on your blog. When you meet people at SOBCon, they are likely to stop by to learn more about you. Make sure your site is ready for them. Don’t panic or obsess over this, but do take time to post something meaningful. Can’t think of anything else? Post a summary of your mission or purpose.
  • Update your profile photo. If you usually use anything besides a photo of you as your profile photo, consider changing it at least a week in advance. We want to be able to recognize you when we meet in person.

What is Leverage?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of leverage, and I realized I never asked myself a key question: What IS leverage? What does leverage really mean? Intrinsically, I guess I’ve known it for a long while, but honestly, I didn’t know if I could define it. It just sounded like a good word to use. I thought it would make me sound smart.

So I did what any person who wants to get smarter do. I asked all my friends.

Actually, I didn’t. I didn’t want anyone to know I didn’t really know what leverage meant. So instead, I searched for it – on Google – and here’s what I found out leverage meant.


The last definition is one that really resonates with me: Use (something) to maximum advantage. That’s one of the kinds of leverage I want and the kind of leverage I need to help my business. I want to use things to their maximum advantage, in everything I do for my business. But it’s not exactly what I thought leverage meant, so I kept searching.

another definition of leverage

Some more good definitions here.

To improve or enhance.

The mechanical advantage of a lever.

Getting better at helping me understand leverage – but still not perfect.

So I kept looking through the results.

I found this definition of leverage over at Business Dictionary:

The ability to influence a system, or an environment, in a way that multiplies the outcome of one’s efforts without a corresponding increase in the consumption of resources. In other words, leverage is the advantageous condition of having a relatively small amount of cost yield a relatively high level of returns.

That’s exactly the type of leverage I want. That’s what I thought leverage might mean, and now I’m sure it means, and it all makes sense now.

Small amount of cost. High level of returns.

Guess what?


That’s right – LEVERAGE! The last kind. I think the BEST kind. It’s the network of people who can multiply your efforts to influence a system. It’s the smart action plans that rapidly grow businesses. SOBCon is the leverage that will get you results!

And I can’t wait to get some more leverage at this year’s SOBCon.

What about you? Does knowing what leverage os excite you? Scare you? Encourage you? Make you want to invest even MORE into your business, knowing you might get a great result? If you really want to get more leverage, now is the time to register for SOBCon.

Getting to SOBCon: Be Your Own Sponsor

Why put your conference attendance into someone else’s hands? Take charge and send yourself to the event. If it is worth attending, isn’t it worth sponsoring yourself?

Here’s how:

1. Total up all your expenses for the trip.
Airfare or transportation, hotel, conference registration, meals, pocket money, and anything else that you’ll have to pay. Get the grand total.

2. Figure how much you’ll need to save per month.
Count the number of months between now and the conference. Divide your total expenses into monthly amounts. That’s how much you’ll need to set aside each month to reach your total.

3. Make a plan to get there.
It’s no good knowing the target if you don’t have a plan to get there. Figure out a way to dedicate some revenue to your conference fund.

  • Offer a special sale.
  • Put one item on sale, and dedicate profit from it to your fund.
  • Set aside a percentage of all your sales.
  • Commit to an extra hour of work each week.
  • Make and hold one extra selling appointment per week.

Let your customers know what your purpose is. You’ll be surprised who is willing to spend a bit extra to help out, while still getting a good deal for themselves.

4. Not enough time? Start now for next year.
Yes, a full year out. If that’s what it takes, do it. You’ll have an easier time because the monthly amount will be smaller.

Finding Sponsors Who Will Send You to SOBCon

You’ve probably heard about companies sponsoring individuals to attend conferences. In some subject areas, it’s considered common practice. In other fields, it’s practically unheard of. Sponsor relationships come in all sizes. When I heard legendary former Texas Governor Ann Richards speak, her national tour was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company.

There are several guides out there to finding corporate sponsors to send you to a conference. My recommendation: Want to get Sponsored? You’d Better Be Sponsorable by Peter Shankman. He covered how to create an effective pitch statement and an example of providing value to your sponsor through blogging and other promotion.

But what if you could work with local business? How would your approach need to be different?

Why Local Companies Are a Better Bet for Sponsors

Your local community is full of businesses capable of affording at least partial sponsorships. Your local network is probably where you have your strongest connections. You may know more local business leaders than you do national corporate leaders. You can help a local business more directly than you can most national companies.

What’s in it for them?

Local businesses are less interested in you mentioning them in blog posts or promoting them at a distant event. Find a way to share the knowledge you’ll be gaining with your sponsor or to gain attention for your sponsor in the local community.

You might share what you learned with them by doing a presentation to some of their staff. Maybe a consultation with their team. Maybe you can do a presentation to a group or local association on their behalf, extending that sponsorship into the community. For example, in a small city, I’m betting your local sponsor would be happy to bring you as a guest speaker to their Rotary meeting. Maybe you can talk to a local entrepreneurs meetup, as a guest of your sponsor.

Sit down in person with the potential sponsor, and talk through what they need and what you can offer. Find a way to benefit both of you. There is no short cut. You have to dedicate the time to find the right exchange of value.

Thanks to SOBCon alum Todd Jordan for helping to refine these ideas.

SOBCon 2014 Is Definitely ON!!

In case you haven’t heard, I’m back! The cancer’s gone! SOBCon 2014 is definitely on!

Save the dates: June 27-29, 2014
So that you can join us in Chicago, IL.
For what’s going to be the best SOBCon ever!

I’m back, on my game, and building awesome!

If you’re going to NMX, look for a special promo code in your bag.

The good news has just begun!