Why Word of Mouth?

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that the secret to success–without a little bit of hard work–is still a secret!  Word of mouth marketing is a solid foundation for building any successful enterprise and, like anything else that brings great rewards, it takes time, effort, and dedication (a.k.a.–a “little bit of hard work” ;-)).

Developing a word-of-mouth marketing program is an effective, potentially lucrative way of generating more business.  The reason I said it takes “a little bit” of hard work is because it’s not even hard work when you consider the alternatives:

1.  Increase your advertising budget

2.  Develop an effective public-relations campaign

3.  Pick up the phone and start cold-calling

The first two alternatives can be ridiculously expensive and the third is time-consuming and frustrating.  However, a structured word-of-mouth marketing program is also personally empowering: it’s one of the few things that you, or someone who works for you, can do (other than cold-calling) that directly affects your success.  Why wait for people to walk in your door?  Why sit idly by, hoping that your existing clients or customers will refer you to others?  With a structured word-of-mouth program you don’t have to wait for the results of your last PR campaign to kick in.

A word-of-mouth program will give you control and allow you to take ownership for the business development of your company.  Such a program has worked for thousands of people in all types of businesses and will work for you as well.

Whoopee in the Cornfields

Here’s the thing with networking: If you want to get more business, you have to  be willing to give business to other businesspeople. That’s why I founded my networking organization, BNI, on the central, guiding philosophy of giving benefit to others–Givers Gain®. It’s an ethical theme that is common to all religions, all cultures: Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you want to get referrals, do the best job you can of giving referrals to others.

I’d like to share with you a story that I originally heard from one of my BNI directors, Art Radtke, which will help you remember this concept.  It was originally called “Sex in the Cornfields,” but I figured “Whoopee in the Cornfields” would be a more decorous title. 😉

Whoopee in the Cornfields

A farmer in Nebraska won the state fair four times in a row with his corn. Nobody had ever done that before, so the paper sent someone out to interview him.

The reporter asked, “What is your secret? Do you use special corn seed?”

The farmer said, “Absolutely. I develop my own corn seed, and that’s an important aspect of it.”

“Well, then, that’s your secret,” said the reporter. “You plant a type of corn that’s different from your neighbors.”

“No, I also give it to my neighbors,” said the farmer.

“You give it to your neighbors?” asked the incredulous reporter. “Why in the world would you give your award-winning corn to your neighbors?”

“The farmer said, “Well, you’ve got to understand how corn is pollinated. It’s pollinated from neighboring fields. And if you’ve got fields around you that don’t have this top-quality corn, your field is not going to grow top-quality corn either. But if my neighbor’s field has this really strong corn, I have awesome corn. And that’s how I’ve won at the Nebraska State Fair the last four years in a row.”

This story is a great metaphor for how networking works.  Put simply, if you’re going to be an effective networker, you need to go into networking with a commitment to helping other people because that is how you’ll be helped in return.

New German Version of Networking Now Blog Available!

Thanks to the efforts of my friend Thomas Albrecht of the Referral Institute in Germany, this blog is now being translated into German.

To view the new German version of this blog, visit: www.ReferralNetworker.com.

My sincere gratitude and appreciation go out to Thomas for his hard work and diligence in translating my weekly blog entries from English to German . . . Thomas, you are a master networker and you truly exemplify the Givers Gain® philosophy!

Make the Connection

One of my employees told me this week that she passed some advice from one of my books on to her cousin; it was about making connections at networking functions.  She told me that her cousin, Greg, recently joined a chamber of commerce to promote the new business he started after being laid off from the company he had worked in for a number of years and he felt clueless as to how to form connections with the strangers he came in contact with at mixers.

My employee remembered reading an article by Alice Ostrower in my book Masters of Networking about making connections so she passed it on to Greg. Reportedly he feels much more comfortable at mixers and has been having a lot more success in networking his business because he now has a strategy for making connections and he feels he knows his purpose when he arrives at a networking event.

Here are the four standard techniques that have been working for Greg and I guarantee they will help you get your networking message across effectively and encourage a positive response (Thanks, Alice! :)):

1.  Get the person’s attention.  Show interest by asking questions: “How are you?” “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “Have you heard about? . . .” “Did you know? . . .”

2.  Add interest.  Respond to the answer but don’t move the conversation to you; elicit more information from the other person.

3.  Involve.  Use the “feel, felt, found” formula (“I know how you feel, I felt the same way, and this is what I found”) to involve yourself in the other person’s message before you deliver your own.

4.  Network.  Tie it all together by connecting one person’s needs or goals with the resources, needs, or goals of another person.  For example: “I felt the same way until I met John Jones.  He really helped me accomplish my goals.  Why don’t I have him give you a call?  Is tomorrow evening convenient?”

This is networking at its best.  Your new acquaintance finds a solution to a problem, your referral gets new business, and you gain a reputation as a friendly, reliable, knowledgeable person who seems to know everybody.  Your name and reputation will become familiar to more and more people, and your business will automatically benefit in the long run.

Carrots, Eggs and Coffee Beans

There’s an old story about carrots, eggs and coffee beans that I’d like to share with you this week. You may have already heard it, but I’ve come across several people lately who have told me about situations of adversity they’re currently facing, and I think the lesson this story teaches about adversity is timeless. It’s a lesson that’s extremely important for people across the world to remember both in business and in life.

Carrots, Eggs and Coffee Beans

A young woman went to her mother and explained that life was very hard for her. She didn’t know how she was going to survive and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling, and it seemed that each time one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen, filled three pots with water and placed each pot on a high fire. Soon, the pots came to a boil. In the first pot she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed a pouch of ground coffee beans.

In about 20 minutes, the mother of the young woman turned off the burners. She fished out the carrots and the eggs and placed them in separate bowls.  She then ladled out the coffee, which had resulted from the coffee beans in the third pot, and poured it into another bowl. Turning to her daughter, she instructed, “Tell me what you see.”

“I see carrots, eggs and coffee,” the young woman replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. Upon feeling the carrots, the young woman noted that they were soft. Her mother then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed a hard-boiled egg.

Finally, her mother asked her to sip the coffee. The young woman smiled as she inhaled the coffee’s inviting aroma and savored the taste of its rich flavor. Then she asked,  “But, what does it mean, Mom?”

Her mother explained to her that each of the objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. However, each reacted very differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting but, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior but, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans, on the other hand . . . they were unique.  After being subjected to the boiling water, they had actually changed the water.  “So,” the older woman asked her daughter, “which one are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

So, it’s time to ask yourself . . . Which am I? Do I seem strong but then become soft and lose my strength when faced with pain and adversity, like the carrot?

Am I more like the egg? Did I start out start out with a malleable heart and a fluid spirit that became hardened or stiff after the death of someone close to me, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial? Does my shell look the same, even though I’ve become cold and tough on the inside?

Or, am I closer in character to the coffee bean, which releases its fragrance and flavor when faced with hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain? In other words, when things are at their worst, do I make things better by changing the situation around me?

When the hour is darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?  How do you handle adversity?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? 

In my experience, the happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

Take a minute to reflect on the people who mean something to you; those who have touched your life and inspired you in one way or another; those who make you smile when you really need it; those who make you see the brighter side of things when you are really down; those whose friendships you appreciate.

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, enough hope to make you happy, and . . . May we all be COFFEE BEANS!!

Learning to Use the Law of Reciprocity: 4 Tips

I posted a blog this past Monday explaining what networkers need to know about the law of reciprocity, and I promised that I’d follow up today with some tips on what to keep in mind as you learn to use the law of reciprocity in your networking efforts. Below you will find four very important things to remember:

Tip No. 1–Giving means helping others achieve success. What is your plan to contribute to others? How much time and energy can you spare for this? Do you actively seek out opportunities to help people? You could volunteer to help out with something that’s important to someone in your network, offer advice or support in time of need, or even work hard to connect someone to a valuable contact of yours.

Tip No. 2–The person who helps you will not necessarily be the person you helped. Zig Ziglar says, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” In other words, what goes around comes around. If you focus intently on helping others, you will achieve success in the end.

Tip No. 3–The law of reciprocity can be measured. It is a myth that networking cannot be measured and, in my latest book, Networking Like a Pro, my co-authors and I use the Networking Scorecard Worksheet, part of the Certified Networker Program offered through the Referral Institute, to measure networking. If you apply the law of reciprocity, you will see your weekly total networking score gradually rise.

Tip No. 4–Success takes getting involved. Contrary to Woody Allen’s assertion that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” you have to do more than simply be present to be a successful networker. If you join a chamber of commerce, become an ambassador. If you join a BNI chapter, get involved in the leadership team. If you join a civic organization, get on a committee. The law of reciprocity requires giving to the group; it will pay you back many times over.

A master networker understands that, although networking is not the end but simply the means to growing a business, service to your network of contacts must always be uppermost in your networking activities. Once you have established a solid reputation as someone who cares about the success of others, the law of reciprocity will reward you with an abundance of high quality referrals.

What You Need to Know about the Law of Reciprocity

The term reciprocity is at the center of relationship networking, but it is often misunderstood. Webster’s dictionary defines reciprocity as “a mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges,” as when actions taken for the benefit of others are returned in kind. This leads many inexperienced networkers to expect an immediate return for any actions they take on behalf of another.  Givers gain, right? Wrong.

Not every act of giving will be immediately rewarded by the recipient, and if you go into relationship networking thinking that simply giving a referral is enough to get you a referral in return, you’re confusing a relationship with a transaction. On the contrary, the idea driving Givers Gain® is actually the principle of giving without the expectation of an immediate return. In networking, this idea is called the law of reciprocity ,and the law of reciprocity differs from the standard notion of reciprocity in that the giver cannot, should not and does not expect an immediate return on her investment in another person’s gain. The only thing she can be sure of is that, given enough effort and time, her generosity will be returned by family, friends, colleagues and others–many times over and in many different ways.

Put simply, the law of reciprocity in networking means that by providing benefits (including referrals) to others, you will be creating strong networking relationships that will eventually bring benefits (especially referrals) to you, often in a very roundabout way rather than directly from the person you benefit.  This makes the law of reciprocity an enormously powerful tool for growing your own business’s size and profitability.

I know a lot of experienced networkers who have amazing stories about how the law of reciprocity has proved to them that there’s far more business to be gained by referring business to others than you might at first expect. If you have a story you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it, so leave a comment. Also, be sure to check back on Thursday for some tips on what to keep in mind as your learn to use the law of reciprocity.

Time Equals Money in Networking

The secret to getting more business through networking is . . . spend more time doing it! OK, well, it’s a little more complicated than that because you have to spend time doing the right things.  However, based on the recently completed Referral Institute study on business networking, we finally have a definitive answer about how the amount of time spent networking impacts the amount of business that is generated.

The most dramatic statistic I have found shows that people who said “networking played a role” in their success spent an average of 6.5 hours a week participating in networking activities. On the other hand, the majority of people who claimed that “networking did NOT play a role” in their success spent only 2 hours or less per week developing their network.

What does this mean? It means there is a direct correlation between the amount of time you devote to the networking process and the degree of success that you realize from it. To illustrate this further, there is a graph below which demonstrates the “average” percentage of business generated from someone’s networking efforts in comparison with the amount of time spent on networking activities.  Here you can clearly see that people who are spending between five to nine hours a week networking are generating (on average) 50 percent of their total business from this activity. 

People who spend, on average, more than 20 hours a week networking are getting almost 70 percent of their business through referrals.

Based on this study, it is clear that people who devote six hours a week or more to networking are generating a large percentage of their business through their efforts. So, it’s time to ask yourself . . . how much time are you spending developing your personal network and what kind of results are you starting to see?

Top Traits of a Good Networker

I’ve been sharing results from my Referral Institute study on networking. This week I’d like to share with you the findings that we have gotten regarding the “Traits of a Good Networker”.  Below is a list of the Top 5 Traits and then a graph of the Top 10.

  1. Enjoys Helping Others
  2. Is Trustworthy
  3. Works
  4. Follows Up
  5. Is a Good Listener

What do you think of these results and do you think there is something that was left off?

Here’s a handy key, organized by color, that makes it easier to discern each trait listed at the bottom of the graph from left to right:

Orange = Enjoys helping others–20.3%

Dark Blue = Is trustworthy–15.2%

Bright Purple = Works their network effectively–12.5%

Bright Orange = Follows up on referrals–10.9%

Dark Green = Is a good listener–10.7%

Brown = Has a positive attitude–9.9%

Light Blue = Is sincere–6.9%

Red = Other (Please Specify)–6.0%

Dark Purple = Networks always–4.5%

Bright Green = Is enthusiastic–2.1%

Gray = Other–1.1%

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