Marketing lessons from Bernie Madoff

Back in March, I discussed networking and the strategy of looking for the "bright spots." I pointed out that while it is important to figure out who are good referral sources (e.g. other professionals who serve the same clients), identifying these individuals is not enough. Just because someone knows or works with the clients you want to meet, that doesn't mean they have the personality or motivation to make the right connections on your behalf. Finding individuals who are also good at connecting, and who are inclined to help, will improve your networking effectiveness. (The author Malcolm Gladwell describes these "connectors" in his book The Tipping Point.)

But how do you go about finding the "connectors" that you want to meet? Where should you be looking?

One way is to borrow a page from the Bernard Madoff school of marketing. Madoff understood the power of affinity.  In his case, he used his affinity with the Jewish community to build his business. Of course he did commit one of the biggest financial frauds in the history of Western Civilization; but if we ignore that "minor point," there is much to be learned from Madoff. Madoff cultivated relationships in a community where he felt comfortable and where people felt comfortable with him. Because of that, he was able to earn the trust of many of his unsuspecting victims (including some pretty savvy people).

While Madoff was a crook who violated the trust that people put in him, he understood that doing business in the Jewish community was a place where he could find a lot of people with common interests.

The marketing lesson is that finding a common affinity is a good way to build relationships. Look for individuals who share a common interest or who identify with a common group. The group can be an alumni association, a group based on a hobby, a political group or even an ethnic group. If you feel like you belong to that group and you like being there, you are more likely to build your network because you will be motivated to invest the time in building those relationships. And people will be quicker to trust you and will want to help you because you are part of that same group.

Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, president, Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching.

Published May 16, 2013


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