Here’s a quick tip if you use LinkedIn.   When you invite someone to join your network, personalize the invitation.  How tired do you get of seeing:

David,

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

– Some Contact

There’s nothing wrong with accepting the default message and it’s certainly a benefit of LinkedIn that they fill in a professional greeting on your behalf so you don’t have to worry about it.  But think of the impact to the people you invite if you took 10 quick seconds to personalize that invite before you sent it:

Wendy,

It was a pleasure to meet you yesterday at That Event.  It sounds like you are doing great things over at Your Company.  I look forward to staying in touch.

– Dave Crain

As you see above, I employ three simple strategies when I send a LinkedIn invitation:

  1. I remind the person where we met.   If it’s anyone worth connecting to, they probably attend plenty of meetings and are introduced to lots of new contacts.  Help them remember the context of where you met.
  2. I Compliment them.  Everyone likes to be complimented.  Not only does it help combat the impersonal nature of an electronic invitation, it sets the relationship off on a positive note.
  3. I sign-off with my full name.  LinkedIn defaults to your first name as the signature.  I always change this to my full name.  I think using only your first name is a bit informal.  Also, since many of the people you are inviting you may have only met once, and then briefly, using your full name will help jog their memory as to who you are.  Finally, for you thought leaders out there, your name is your personal brand so take the opportunity to reinforce it.

Three simple tips that should only take you a few seconds to use, but will definitely help you stand out from your peers.  I currently have around 200 LinkedIn contacts and I can only remember a couple that personalized their invitation.

Anyone else have something unique or personal they do on LinkedIn to stand out from the crowd?

When I started my new position in the incubator a couple years ago, it wasn’t long until I met Rob Felber.  I think it was maybe the third entrepreneurial event I went to.  It was showcase event, intended to let regional up and coming young entrepreneurs network and show off their startup.  There was Rob, taking on of his entrepreneur clients around to meet and greet.

After that event, I saw Rob quite often and finally took the time to get to know him a little better.  Rob is one half of Felber & Felber Marketing (the handsome half I’m sure he would say).  Having got to know Rob, and hear him speak a couple times now, I have come to understand what many in the region already knew – Rob and his company are a great resource to entrepreneurs and businesses of all stripes as they look to promote their company.

We often tell entrepreneurs that one of the benefits we offer as part of our coaching services is connecting them to “entrepreneurially-friendly” service providers.  Rob made it easy for me to put him in that category.  And it just so happens that Rob himself is both entrepreneurial, and friendly.  You couldn’t ask for a better combination.

So, on with the interview…

DCO: Tell us about your company.  What was the genesis of your business?

We started Felber & Felber Marketing initially as a production company helping other agencies with print production, promotional materials and the sourcing of promotional products and packaging. There was a specific moment when I was discussing a new $50,000 project with an agency and I said …”wait, before we discuss this one, how did the client do on the last one?” All the agency could say was that the client did not complain. There was no discussion or even tracking of goals. It was at that point we “became one (an agency, that is),” focusing on measurable marketing strategies. Through the years we added copy development, graphic design, public relations and social media services, all with the a focus on a measurable result for our clients.

DCO: Describe the moment when you knew you were an entrepreneur? What defined that moment and how did it feel?

The moment you realize you are an entrepreneur, for me, came at several moments. The first is when you realize you cannot work for someone else and really enjoy the freedom that comes with making your own schedule and not having to report to anyone. The other “moment of truth” is a phrase I often use when someone says how great it must be to own your own business. I often reply that you are not an entrepreneur (or true business owner) unless you have “sweated making payroll” and have people depending on you.

These moments in time, while often exhilarating (like closing a big deal) can often be filled with fear, such as when signing a long term lease, adding staff or buying equipment.

DCO: What marketplace issue are you solving and for whom?

Felber & Felber Marketing helps business to business manufacturers tell their story to the right person, at the right time so our clients make more money. We utilize publicity, printed communication and social media to help our clients effectively communicate to prospects and the media that cover their industry.

DCO: How do you define success?  At what point do you consider yourself successful?

While success and the definition changes often, I have come to realize that success is a journey. It is not about one particular client or their cover story in a lead publication, but about our continual growth as an agency, the development of our people and the client friendships we develop along the way.  While judgment by peers and family often defines one’s success, my view is and will remain the simple fact: Do I enjoy what I am doing, am I good at it and are people willing to compensate me for it.

DCO: What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

To be a successful entrepreneur is not waiting until some defined moment in time to give back to your community, your industry or networking colleagues. I get a charge out of helping people connect, especially for business (of course without remuneration….that would just taint the process in my mind). Give with no strings attached.

DCO: Entrepreneurs are almost always starved for capital.  How have you funded your business so far, and where do you go from here?

While we have become increasingly aware of funding sources such as venture and angel funding, our firm has never taken that route. One of the mottos I live by (and infuse into my teaching) is that “nothing happens until someone sells something.” That being said, we have bootstrapped our way to growth by selling our services and not building debt.

DCO: How has being an entrepreneur affected your family/social life?

Family, work and social are integrated into everything I (we) do. Whether it is volunteering on a charity committee, speaking to a professional organization or attending a social gathering, we are always networking. By being aware of others needs, whether personal, business or both, our lives become enriched. Famous salesperson Zig Ziglar states that “if you help people get what they want, you will get what you want.” So, by enriching our lives with people from multiple venues we build a personal community that pays dividend spiritually, economically and physically.

DCO: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?

I have always been a fan of the irreverent yet fun and success path the people of Southwest Airlines have forged. They keep it real, respect each other and are profitable. They seem to really know how to take care of each other and their families.  (Rob suggests reading the book Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success.

DCO: What kind of support do you look for and where do you find it?

The support I look for the most is business networking support. I find this support through countless networking groups both in person and online. I often look for groups that are NOT filled with my peers, but rather industries and people that are completely different from mine. They folks however have the ability to connect me to CEO’s and VP of marketing in manufacturing companies.

DCO: What stops you from giving up when you get frustrated?

Running a business, just like working in one, can be filled with frustrations and disappointments. I often try to stay grounded by realizing there are tons of people that do not have a choice in what they do, where they live or for that matter how they live. Also, having multiple experiences helps you react to new and not-so-new challenges that come with the daily life of a CEO.

Thanks for taking the time to spend some time with me Rob.  Here’s wishing you continued success in the future.