Maurice Harary, CEO/Co-Founder, The Bid Lab
Maurice Harary - CEO/Co-Founder, The Bid Lab
Can you share a little about what makes you an authority on building a great network?
We recently launched our new RFP search engine, Bid Banana. We wanted to make searching for RFPs both easy and accessible, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. I am beyond proud of what we have been able to accomplish. We’ve created a search engine that pulls RFPs from all over and puts them into a user-friendly interface. You can search by RFP due date, keywords, location, etc. We even added a favorites feature so you can save multiple bids and compare them to see which one is the right option for your business. Allowing small and medium-sized businesses access to RFPs in an easy to comprehend format really emphasizes what we are most passionate about - helping businesses grow to achieve their full potential.
How important is networking for professional success, and why?
My work is all about building good relationships both with my employees and my clients. Taking the time to really understand a person so I can help them achieve success is inherently fulfilling and thus motivating. I work hard to hire good employees and work with them to build their careers. Our journey together creates amazing bonds and is what makes The Bid Lab a company I am proud of. Moving from thing to thing or task to task is just like eating too much candy, you’re full but not fulfilled. Focusing on the important things and really investing in them is what creates a sustainable sense of fulfillment to help you both reach your goals.
What's your usual ice-breaker question when meeting someone for the first time?
Where is their fulfillment? Finding the things that make them feel most fulfilled - being with family, traveling, hitting new goals - are the keys to sustaining them in every sense of the word. It’s easy to get caught up in things that don’t matter. Focusing on what brings them fulfillment and putting your energy there reminds you that their life is a whole entity, and not just separated parts.
How do you approach networking differently when you're meeting someone in person versus virtually?
Fear is the number one aspect that holds people back from getting out of their comfort zone. And for good reason. Being vulnerable and authentic takes work and it is scary. It’s been said many times because it is so very true, you can’t let fear win. Often, we are afraid to be who we are in the world because we fear rejection, but it’s far better to be rejected for yourself than for someone you’re pretending to be. And every failure, every rejection just gets you one step closer to success.
What are some common mistakes people make when trying to build their professional network, and how can they avoid them?
Focus on your marketing strategy. And if you cannot pay attention to your marketing strategy, hire people who can. Marketing is all in the details. This isn’t something that can merely run on autopilot. Set aside specific time to focus and refine your marketing on a regular basis and ensure you have a team in place that shares your vision and can help you expand.
Have you noticed any differences in the types of relationships you build through in-person versus virtual networking? If so, can you describe those differences?
For us, social media ads just did not pan out when it came to marketing our consulting services. What we learned from this was that just because we weren’t converting from social media, that didn’t mean we weren’t gaining brand awareness. Now, we spend our time tailoring our social media posts and focus on engagement instead of conversions.
What are some strategies you've found effective for building rapport and establishing trust with someone you've only just met?
As people evolve, they become more sophisticated in their understanding of when and how they are being marketed to. This is why it is more important than ever to be authentic and honest in your advertising. Much like the de-influencer trend on TikTok, many people are looking for more authentic examples of how to live their lives and thus respond to more genuine, human, and even “messy” marketing. Don’t be afraid to add the imperfect or perfectly human into your advertising approach. People make lifelong connections to brands that are relatable and your honest humanity in marketing will be your greatest asset in a world craving more authenticity and less perfection.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to networking and trying to make connections in their industry?
Marketing approaches can vary across different cultures; what works in one culture may not necessarily be effective in another. Straight-forward marketing strategies employed in Japan might not work as well as they would in the United States, for example, because Japan is a high-context culture. In high-context cultures, communication tends to be more indirect, and marketing messages may rely largely on visual imagery and symbolism. Meanwhile, in low-context cultures, communication is more explicit. Marketing messages may focus more on the specific features and benefits of a product. The differences don't stop there. Japan has a more individualistic streak, whereas a country like China values collectivistic messaging. Companies will do better marketing personal benefits on an individualistic level than they will in China, where a company would want to think about promoting benefits to society as a whole.
Organic Content: More than half of our leads are from people reading our articles. It’s a long-term investment, because our 100+ articles have taken us years to develop and refine, but they pay huge dividends. Plus, we’re constantly refreshing our content with new information. In our article Why Should I Search for RFPs Online we provide multiple options for updated, online RFP search engines.
Referrals: Getting referrals, advertising a referral program and compensating for referrals is huge for a consulting firm! In our case, a firm that came to us as a referral ended up being one of our biggest clients.
Account Management: Don’t forget to market to your existing clients. Utilize strategic opportunities to upsell/cross-sell. Not only is it cheaper, but you also have a greater ROI when working with existing clients as opposed to sourcing new clients.