I’ve been in business for several years and I’ve had to do my share of networking. For an introvert, it’s pretty bleh unless I meet some wonderful peeps with common peripheral interests.

Imagine going to a cocktail party. It’s tough if you don’t already have a circle of friends to get conversations started.

You can’t just walk up to an unfamiliar group and say, “Hi guys! We haven’t met, but I’m Lawrence. So what’s going on everyone?” Guarantee blacklisted.

So how does one remedy this situation? This question was raised in my private Pricing Strategy Facebook Group.

Social vs. Market Norms

Credit for the following model goes to Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.

Pretend that you’re attending your mom’s Thanksgiving dinner.

After a filling meal, you pat your belly and say, “Wow. That was delicious! How much do I owe you?”

How do you think your mom would feel? Do you think she did it for the money? In fact, it was probably cheaper to just go out for dinner. Yet, paying or tipping for dinner at a restaurant is perfectly acceptable.

So, what’s acceptable for your Thanksgiving dinner? Perhaps a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers. Those items still cost money, so what gives?

The paradigm here is social versus market norms.

  • Social Norms – family, friendship, relationship
  • Market Norms – money, exchange, transactions

The two worlds must never cross or else there will be confusion. Why?

Varying Expectations

The reason why we cannot mix social vs. market norms is because of different expectations.

Market Situation
In a market norm, the usual expectation is an exchange. You give me something and I give you something. Bottom line, there are always two questions [when it comes to sales]:

  1. What’s in it for me?
  2. What’s in it for you?

And for the most part, exchanges must have equality. Imagine Bride A paid $3,000 for photography services and Bride B paid $2,000 for the same services…and they met…and chatted. What do you think will happen? Catastrophe.

Social Situation
In a social norm, equality isn’t of the highest priority. Let’s imagine that I made a delicious pizza.


Would I get angry at someone who didn’t get an exact 1/8 slice? “Sorry John, that slice looks bigger than Sarah’s! Let me cut off a sliver.”


Nice and dandy so far? Let’s see how these strategies can apply to real world examples aside from making mom happy at Thanksgiving, shall we?

I buy about two beverages a day at Starbucks. As of last year, I figured that a Gold Card would probably save me some money. Everyday, I see the same busy staff. One day, Theresia (a super friendly barista) took a moment and looked at the name on my card.

starbucks gold card

Since then, she’ll always pop her head from behind the espresso machines and holler, “Hi Lawrence! What will it be today?” And this is all before I even hit the register.

  • Social norm – Theresia being her friendly self
  • Market norm – Person at register collecting money

Dinner with WHCC Crew

One month ago, I went to Austin, TX for a convention. While there, the WHCC crew (Mike / Chris / Tim Hanline, Jed Taufer) invited me to dinner. For the record, I was stoked.

Never having met them before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I felt completely comfortable. We talked. We drank. We ate. We barely talked about the photography industry (business / market norm).

Why was that important?

Networking is Not a Confetti of Business Cards

I’ve been invited to drinks, lunches, dinners, parties, etc. However, often it’s followed by “so that I could pick your brain.” That automatically flips a switch from social to market norm.

And when you have to ask yourself in a market norm situation – what’s in it for you / me…

  • automatically there’s ulterior motive for self enrichment
  • when there’s ulterior motive, there’s less trust
  • when there’s less trust, relationships are rockily built only on exchanges (quid pro quo)

There’s little longevity in that unless you always have something they want and vice versa.

So, before you shove a business card in someone’s hands (market), think about the type of relationship you’re trying to build. If it’s a clear cut exchange, sure go for it! If it’s a friend you want to make, only offer a business card if they ask for it.

Whew, that was a long explanation. You all must think I’m crazy, huh?


Lawrence Chan

P.S. Don’t underestimate the strategies above. I’ve been hired to do private seminars for companies solely based on relationship building.


Market Norm – checkout page on ROES ($)
Social Norm – lolly!
whcc lollipop

…and a lovely card saying that “CAROL” packaged this photo shipment. This humanizes the experience making this package beyond just prints and pretty boxes. So far, I’m loving it!

P.P.P.S. So, the next time you’re at a casino, notice how chips are used in place of cash (market)?

Or how money (market) is exchanged for credits (social) at Midway Games? And they even throw in some incalculable numbers (explained in pricing ebook) like one dollar equals 20 credits… Fun stuff.

P.P.P.P.S. This is also the same when Roxanne from Pixel2Canvas sends $5 Starbucks gift cards (social) with every shipment. She could have easily

  1. sent a $5 bill (market)
  2. discounted the final price by $5 (market)

P.P.P.P.P.S. Is this clear? If yes, please share with Retweet and Facebook buttons below! I appreciate it very much. xoxoxoxoxoxoxo!

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Is there a limit to how many P.S.s I could use? Anyway, to answer that whole cocktail question, build relationships before you attend parties. An easy way is to start a conversation on Facebook / Twitter first.

Most recently, I invited three peers (I’ve never worked with before) to a 2-day Grace Ormonde editorial shoot because they’re always there to “like,” retweet, etc. It was as simple as me remembering their social media avatars ๐Ÿ™‚