Last year I was in Taiwan teaching English to Taiwanese children. Thousands of miles prevented me from seeing my family and friends for over a year. Although the Pacific Ocean separated me from my home in the U.S., I didn’t lose a beat with everyone that mattered to me. I was able to e-mail my family, video chat my friends, stay current with events, and even continue to do my banking back home.
I was lucky. If I went overseas to teach before the internet it would have been entirely different. Waiting by the mailbox for the day’s post. Eagerly reading my letters from home. Scanning the newspaper for any news back home. I would have been entirely disconnected and off the grid, a concept that is long forgotten in today’s era of connectivity.
My complete and utter reliance on the internet while overseas brought to light a couple of truths about the world wide web. For starters, what would we do without the internet? I was afforded the opportunity to connect with my friends and family, allowing me to stay close with them as the months passed by. I could stay up to date with any current event and find out anything I wanted to about the unfamiliar country I was in. However, the information available to me on the internet was mind-boggling. The concurrent truth, perhaps inconveniently, is that the internet has too much information and at times can be overwhelming.
An overwhelming amount of information on the internet is a problem. Numerous tools are available for like-minded people who think as I do, tools that cut down search times and capture the excess amounts of information in concrete ways. Relationship Mapping is one of those tools.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are tasked with doing research on an individual as a researcher needing to uncover information about a prospect, as a salesperson wanting to better understand a target, or as a teacher working overseas trying to connect with a long lost friend back home. Your first step would be to search him or her and peruse the information available. What that individual did last year, where he/she went to school, where they worked, etc. The likelihood that you would run into dead-end information is high, the likelihood that you would discover false information is high, and the likelihood that you would fall well short of completely understanding that individual is marginal. Consequently, the chances that you get overwhelmed by the information at your fingertips increases. This is where Relationship Mapping can help.
Relationship Mapping aims to take the overwhelming amount of information on the internet and simplify it for your needs. The tool takes on the headache for you. It combs the internet for information that matters to you. Relationship Mapping finds out who knows whom, how, and how well.
So let’s say you run the same search on that individual, this time using Relationship Mapping as a tool. You effectively put together a biographical report and with the click of a button you uncover the most important thing in this ever-changing world: relationships. No more long hours of skimming long-lost articles to see if you can find a connection, Relationship Mapping does that for you. No more useless information. No more headaches. You were tasked with doing research on an individual, and you come out the victor, not the internet.
There is no denying the power of the internet. But there is some definite truth in the fact that there is too much information out there. This truth is one of the main reasons why tools such as Relationship Mapping exist. They aim to make sense of the vast amount of jumble out there. In the case of Relationship Mapping, it helps people uncover valuable information quickly and efficiently. Without it, headaches will ensue.
My headaches were marginalized as my year went on in Taiwan. Notwithstanding the clutter I had to sift through from time to time, I was blessed by the world wide web. Half a world away I was able to talk to the people that I care for most, stay in the know, and concentrate on what was in front me, not what I left back home. I now turn to helping people concentrate on what’s important in their professional lives. I want to alleviate people’s problems over the internet. I want to turn searches on individuals into something fun, not a nightmare.
In my other posts, I have discussed how to quantify the value of relationship mapping tools through the following:
- Tangible and Intangible Benefits
- Efficiency Tools
- Return on Investment
I understand that we still have to deal with the reality of stagnant or shrinking budgets. Here is a good example from one of my ecstatic prospects who said, “I love Relationship Mapping! I see the viability and application but have no budget!”
When budgets are tight, it’s time to get creative. Don’t be afraid to ask vendors for alternative ways to fit your specific needs. Let’s look at some ideas to help:
- Assess current prospecting tools weighing benefits against expenses.
- Assess current prospecting methods, verifying that value is derived.
- Keep a running list in Excel with your priority rank included.
- Have relevant examples of the benefits on hand to share with superiors.
- Share budgets with different departments if possible.
- Directly ask your board members for a one-time allowance on the product (by sharing ultimate value relevant to the board member).
- Ask for a customized plan that fits your organization’s needs.
Tight budgets tend to make teams even more cautious with funds that are allocated to products. Sometimes it makes sense to take a trial look at the service or product. Hopefully then, you will gain some understanding of what it can do for you and your organization.
In my experience, a lot of individuals are able to show direct value to their superiors and board members after trial periods.
The ultimate test of a service is the one in which you have the power to navigate and see results.
If we want to increase our efficiency, identifying new qualified leads should be at the top of our priority list. Identifying new prospects is a constant project for everyone, but how do we sift through an endless list of names? How do we add new and qualified names to that list? There are two novel ways using Relationship Mapping:
- Reach out to people that your constituents know as potential prospects.
- Reach out to companies where you have connections.
When you leverage your current relationships, you are not only discovering potential prospects but prospects to whom you will already have a warm introduction. This kind of peer-to-peer introduction to your cause is 200 times more likely to result in a gift than a call from a fundraiser.
The challenge is finding those relationships. Cross-referencing among your own database will only show you names that you already know. How do we find names of those you don’t know?
Prospects Your Constituents Know When you have access to a global database, you can find out whom your constituents know that you didn’t realize were potential prospects. Once you have this list, there are many ways to approach these new leads including referrals, introductions, and peer screening. You can also delve deeper in your research to open up their networks and find out how else they may be connected to you. Multiple connections to a person increases your access points with a chance of converting the prospects faster. Your Company Connections
Prospect Visual allows you to gain access to corporations and foundations. You can see which companies/organizations you already have direct connections to through your constituents. In addition, you can also search for companies/organizations to find whom you already know who is connected to their senior executives, their board members, or a specific group you would like to know more about. Corporations can take months to years to engage. With a strong connection to the right person, getting through the door can be accelerated.
“Overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand.” – Ben Shneiderman, computer scientist and professor at the University of Maryland, coined the ever-powerful mantra of visual information design.
These simple principles are the commandments of interactive visual information. We need visual information to convey large amounts of data instantly and attractively. To best digest and refine our visual information, we need it to be responsive and interactive.
In Prospect Visual, we always begin with an overview and then filter down. And because he’s on topic, let’s take a peek at just a few of Ben Shneiderman’s connections:
From here, we can conduct fisheye zooming and filtering out. We have many filtering options, but in this case, I want to see only the strong connections that Ben has:
The final piece to Shneiderman’s puzzle is details on demand. When we hover over pathways, as shown below, we are provided with additional information, and upon clicking, we may dive even deeper into that particular relationship to see how these relationships came to be.
Shneiderman’s guidelines for perfect interactive visual information design seem to encapsulate all the necessities for a streamlined functionality. But there is one more thing I would add to it: provide options. There is no appropriate way to convey information without considering your audience. So what is the best way to convey relationship information to my team? That depends on my goals and on my team’s taste. Am I working with visual learners, researchers, fundraisers? That’s why we provide the ability to see all information in multiple ways. Here, we see a tabular view:
And a Map view:
Have you ever wondered how Prospect Visual gathers information for its proprietary database? In today’s topic, we pry open the Chamber of Prospect Secrets at Prospect Visual. Just in case you haven’t read my other articles about the history of Prospect Visual’s database, here’s a SportsCenter’s Top Ten Prospect Visual Plays of the Decade Breakdown:
- Our Database was created and filled using a Natural Language Processor (NLP) that reads various articles on the internet to aggregate data.
- We never add client proprietary data to our database.
- Our database is enhanced and updated with additional clients. (We do external research into each contact given to us by the client.)
- We use SEC filings, Businessweek, and Businesswire as primary sources for our information.
- We’re working toward increasing the database to 165 million individuals.
- We update our database quarterly to reflect more current positions held by our saved contacts.
- We are mostly interested in dates of positions and position levels at companies.
- We’re not interested in adding information from LinkedIn to our Prospect Visual database. (To clarify, we can add LinkedIn information to each account, just not to our primary Prospect Visual database. I will explain later why adding it to the Prospect Visual database might be a bad idea.)
- Top secret algorithms are used to determine connection strength between contacts.
- We’re generally not interested in addresses, phone numbers, and capacity. (We’re in the business of relationship mapping, not profiles.)
Regarding the LinkedIn information, we don’t update our Prospect Visual primary database based on user information because user information can be deliberately altered, while SEC information is written in a formal document. For example, here is the link to Alcoa’s DEF14A: http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/4281/000119312512109136/d301718ddef14a.htm
If you scan the document, you can see that everything is described (in perfect grammar, might I add) in a factual form that the NLP can read. On the other hand, we have social media websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. While LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional website, it does contain misleading and sometimes outright ridiculous information on profiles. Here, I show an endorsement page on LinkedIn that is slightly misleading.
We all know that people do business with people they know. So how do we gain access to our prospects through relationships? Referrals from current clients!
Referrals are a fantastic way to gain a head start at establishing relationships. Therefore, asking for referrals should be one of the highest priorities of your management and development team. To make the most of your clients’ referrals, see two tips below for successfully getting a referral.
Be prepared for common objections from your client: “I don’t give referrals.” “Let me think about it and get back to you.” “Give me some of your cards.” “I don’t know anyone who may be interested.”
Two Tips to Solving the Underlying Issues:
Reputation and Trust: Be certain that your client is satisfied with your performance and you have delivered prior to engaging in the referral conversation. If you explore the root of most objections, it comes down to clients not wanting to put their stamp of approval on the service when making a referral.
Vagueness: Asking Without Direction When asking for referrals, it may feel like a shotgun approach. You may not know what relationships your clients have or which of those relationships will be a good fit for your services. We know that your client is a believer in you and your services, otherwise they would not be working with you. If we have a strategic approach, we can overcome the second underlying issue and have a better chance of overcoming the first underlying issue as well.
Do your homework on your clients: Research and create a short list of whom they may know from your prospects. Present your client with the list and ask if he/she would or could make a referral to any of the selected prospects. Your strategic approach shows a proactive mentality that is contagious and compelling. Most clients will be impressed with the research and will appreciate your effort of generating a short list of prospects for them to review.
A great research method of creating your short list of prospects is done through using Relationship Mapping technology or through searching the archives of biographical data on the web.
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? – T.S. Eliot, The Rock 1934
Is this what people say when they look at your reports? T.S. Eliot had it right if we look at wisdom, knowledge, and information as rooted within one another. Our information offers us nothing without the knowledge to discern what is valuable. We combine our information and knowledge to inform and inspire actionable wisdom. In other words, we write reports. And when you are building yours, follow a few basic rules to keep Eliot’s questions at bay.
Make It Pretty: Did I just finish talking about wisdom, knowledge, and information? Yes, but making it pretty is still number one! You want your report to be not only easy to use but also easy to peruse. This means the organization is clean and it includes infographics. Visual information adds variety and expresses information at a glance.
Clear Audience, Clear Purpose: Whether you are writing an informative report or a call to action, knowing your audience refines your purpose. What is the pertinent information that they need and why are they interested? Do they absorb information best in clean, tabular formats or with rich, colorful images? If you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to reporting perfection.
Ensure Accuracy: This one is a no brainer. Our data is the foundation from which we draw our knowledge, our hypotheses, and our actions. Make sure yours is spot on.
Logical Structure: If it’s a challenge for your readers to follow, they will most likely stop reading. Maintain Consistency Understand expected format regarding title, margins and spacing, headers and footers, and general structure. Follow these formats accordingly and maintain them throughout. If there is not a standard in place, make your report the new standard.
Be Succinct: Check back and cut the fluff. Any unnecessary or extraneous information that is not essential to your purpose should be removed.
Revisit Number 1: After all of that, is it still pretty? Perfect!
“I have no time! Research requests are piling up!” Skeleton crews and well-staffed teams have one thing in common: all are pressed for time. Campaigns, events, bios, research requests, and finding connections overrun the day.
I speak with clients every day who say that a brief report can take anywhere from 3-6 hours and a detailed report on individuals can take 1-2 days. When we discuss connections to organizations by cross-referencing board members’ affiliations to constituents, it can be days before the request is complete.
I am incredibly happy that we have technology to assist us in these tasks today rather than being relegated to search corporation filings and trying to keep track in Excel!
With Relationship Mapping technology, we can instantly see the connections between our constituents and prospects. Then we are able to quickly produce reports to break down the strongest relationships with quick biographies on the targeted individuals. On average, a brief report will take 15-30 minutes to complete and the more detailed reports can take up to an hour, which is a remarkable savings.
|Relationship Mapping||Brief Report||Detailed Report||Organization Report|
|Without a tool||3-6 hours||8-10 hours||2-3 days|
|With a tool||15-30 minutes||0-1 hours||1-2 hours|
|Minimum time savings||2.5 hours||7 hours||14 hours|
Relationship Mapping can be your key to freedom! Allow a change from the reactive nature of your job to a proactive approach of targeting the most likely donors to your cause.
“We are from a small town, with a limited scope, so how can Relationship Mapping help us?”
I get this question A LOT. That is, how does an organization that tracks, targets, and approaches prospects with limited resources geographically become stronger as an organization? The number of people I talk to from smaller, rural organizations equals the numbers from larger, urban areas. One would think with urban populations making up 80% of America’s population that the majority of my time tends toward America’s urbanites. Wrong.
As America’s population migrates toward the concrete jungles, how can an organization adapt? Close regional ties are dwindling. So what steps can an organization take to adapt to this change? Specifically, how can Relationship Mapping assist smaller, rural organizations?
For starters, you have to stay connected. Long-lost constituents are a persistent problem in this business, more so for small town organizations. As your constituency moves away from your rural location you have to be prepared. With Prospect Visual and the ability you have through Relationship Mapping, we can fill that void. We break down geographical barriers for you. We make your long-lost constituent feel closer to you than ever. We connect that long-lost alumni to your current donors and we connect that individual to other regional ties you might have.In short, we show you whom he knows, how, and how well in a specific area. Problem solved.
Speaking of problems – finding new prospects is one that always comes to mind. The constant flow of new prospects is always a problem no matter the size of the city or town in which your organization resides. Since small town organizations are limited geographically, you need to be creative with how you approach this problem of finding new prospects.
Relationship Mapping is a unique service in that regard. Let’s imagine that your organization is in a town of 20,000 people and all the large metro areas near you are a long day’s drive away. You know for a fact you have a good resource of current donors in these cities. How do you take advantage of them? In other words, how do you break down the geographical barrier and connect to prospects in these cities near you?
By identifying community leaders and prominent individuals who are connected to your organization, Relationship Mapping can provide you with a list prospects in those difficult regions and show you how to connect to them through your existing relationships. We can show you who that current donor knows in that area, how, and how well. Through Relationship Mapping you can feel closer to those major metro areas around you than ever before.