The Case of the Disappearing Business Cards

Are business cards disappearing? Well, sort of. I don’t mean your business cards. They better not be disappearing. You need them to network with. But what about all the cards you’ve been collecting when you meet people? What’s happening to them?

Business cards are the most powerful single business tool, dollar for dollar, that you can invest in to help build your business. They are a “marvelous, compact, energy-efficient, low-cost, low-tech instrument–a self-contained device with no gears, springs or batteries that keeps working for its owner hours, weeks, years, even decades after it has left his or her hands.” That’s what I said about them in my book It’s in the Cards a number of years ago. Well, I still believe all of the above except for one thing: I’m not so sure that our actual business cards continue to work for us hours, weeks or especially years after they have left our hands.

More and more I am seeing the business card become a disposable advertisement for people. Don’t get me wrong; I still think that business cards are very important. However, I also recognize that technology is replacing the “card box” and Rolodex I once had on my desktop. It has, for me, been replaced with Outlook. For many years, I had all the business cards I collected in a well-organized and categorized alphabetical card box. In recent years, I (like many other people) get back to my office with a pocket full of cards and have the information entered into my Outlook database. And the cards?  Well, let’s just say they used to disappear. But not any longer. No, today I keep them digitally using a CardScan.

I recently got a CardScan Executive and I love this product. I found it really, really easy to use (this said by someone who only reads instructions if absolutely necessary, and it wasn’t). The palm-sized device makes an image of the card and then automatically strips out the information into all the correct categories (name, company, address, phone, etc.). It then allows you to download all the information directly into your computer database (and did I mention that it was easy?).

Although I must admit that cards I used to receive went to that great big card box in the sky, now I can say they live on forever as a digital image and, more importantly, as a contact in my digital database–which is very important to the operation of my business. I really love the CardScan and I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about networking. You can get more information about it at www.CardScan.com.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this type of product and how you use it in your networking efforts.

If you’d like to read some other articles that I’ve written about the effective use of business cards, take a look at these two columns here at Entrepreneur.com:

Article: Smart Ways to Use Your Business Card

Article: Creating an Effective Business Card

International Networking Week–It’s About Time!

Finally, there’s a week to recognize one of the most important ways that people can build their businesses–networking. International Networking Week is right around the corner. Last year, thousands of people from around the world recognized the week, and even more are expected to recognize it this year.

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world. It is about creating an awareness relating to the process of networking. Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking,” an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful relationships with people through the networking process.

International Networking Week has now been acknowledged by several governmental organizations (including a joint resolution of the California State Assembly and Senate). Start the new year out with more business. If you belong to any networking groups, make sure to tell them that International Networking Week is Feb. 4-8.

Below is an eight-minute video that talks about International Networking Week, 2008. Share the video with others and feel free to show it at your networking meetings during International Networking Week (you will note that I talk about this blog on the video):

 

Click Here for 2008 Video

Go to www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com for more information. Share with us here on the bulletin board. What will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?

Finding the Right Referral Partner

Victoria Trafton, a Referral Institute partner and franchise owner in Arizona, shared with with me some ideas I’d like to discuss here. She said to me recently that, in her experience, the key to having a stream of referrals coming to you is finding the right referral partners. We all know people we like, people we want to help, but it can be difficult to give them referrals.

So then, what does the right referral partner look like? Victoria suggested that a successful referral partnership is mutually beneficial and self-sustaining. Both parties can easily generate referrals for each other as they develop their own business. If it takes extra effort or they have to go outside their normal business activities, business owners generally can’t afford to take the time.

How do you find the right partner without wasting a lot of time? First of all, start with someone who meets the criteria for a strong referral source:

  • Must have trust between you;
  • Must work with your exact target market;
  • Must have influence with your market;
  • Must be willing to be trained as your referral partner;
  • Must be willing to train you to be his or her referral partner;
  • Must have the time and means to work a referral system;
  • Must have a well-developed and organized client/contact database.

Quite a list. But if you both meet the requirements, you are well on your way to having a great referral partnership. There is clearly a lot of training involved. Both parties need knowledge about each other and about referral systems. When the partnership works well, each side knows when it will get referrals, how many it can expect and how the referral was given.

When you find someone you think can become a referral partner, you must get some education to generate referrals intentionally, not find them occassionally. Victoria recommends my book, Business by Referral, co-authored with Robert Davis. She also recommends both parties get trained by taking classes together.

Victoria said that part of the reason she loves being a part of the Referral Institute is because the programs provide the training and systems that enable people to develop productive referral partnerships. As she says, “When you mix education with good people and good intentions, great things happen.”

‘The Time is Now’ Movie

I’m honored to say that I am part of a new film that is currently in production: The Time is Now.

I talk about how collaboration through networking is a powerful way of doing business.

The film features personal conversations with Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Tony Robbins, John Gray and Jack Canfield, plus many others.

The Leaders in the New Civilization–LINC–charitable organization is producing this amazing breakthrough film, which will be both educational and entertaining. It presents a very positive, futuristic view of what is possible as we utilize our most advanced resources, intelligence, awareness and scientific breakthroughs to make the highest-integrity choices for future generations.

Throughout these extraordinary dialogues, these leaders provide some of their greatest ideas, their deepest life philosophy and wisdom, their personal secrets to success and their most effective daily practices, along with powerful solutions for global issues that can shift our individual lives, our families, businesses, communities and the world.

If you would like to see an advance trailer for the film, go to: www.thetimeisnow.tv . I am in the section toward the end on “Collaboration.”

Enjoy!

Referral Marketing–You Can’t Do it Alone!

At the BNI International Directors’ Conference in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Dawn Lyons, one of the Master Trainers for the Referral Institute, about the struggles many people face with referral marketing. As we exchanged ideas about various referral marketing issues, such as inconsistency, quality levels, lukewarm referral sources and, ultimately, the uncertainty that people can sometimes feel, Dawn told me about a new catch phrase she has been using. Her new phrase is, “Referral Marketing … You Can’t Do It Alone!” I thought, wow–it’s a pretty simple phrase, yet it’s so true that it really makes a powerful statement.

As entrepreneurs, one thing Dawn and I both know is how control-oriented most entrepreneurs are. We like to get things done ourselves, and we typically would rather go out and make something happen than wait for things to come our way. Unfortunately, those entrepreneurial tendencies don’t mesh very well with referral marketing because of an important theory that Dawn asserted people must understand. She said, “Where do referrals come from? They come from other people!” Certainly, nobody can debate that. This is exactly why Dawn’s catch phrase holds such power–referrals come from other people who trust us enough to refer us, and who have found someone in need of our services. Referrals will never be generated from an individually focused mindset.

As Dawn put it, “Suggesting that we, as individuals, can go out and make referrals happen for our business is just silly … You Can’t Do It Alone!” Other people are the key factor in helping anyone generate referral business. Dawn has written a more detailed article on this topic, which clearly explains the concept of where referrals come from and shows specific places to go in order to increase referral business. If you are out there trying to generate your own referrals, by all means, take a look at her article and stop wasting all that time and effort.

Remember, being a self-starter and possessing an entrepreneurial spirit are some of your biggest strengths; but when it comes to referral marketing … You Can’t Do It Alone!

Setting the Stage for a Successful Word of Mouth Program

During a conversation last week, one of our assistant directors for BNI in Michigan, Leslie Fiorenzo, made an interesting point of comparison between appreciating opera and learning to use word-of-mouth marketing in your business. She said, “The best way to experience opera is to see it on the stage, and the best way to use word of mouth is to put a referral marketing plan in place. The novice, in either case, may not know where to begin.”

We started talking about a system to generate business by referral and, just like opera, if you have little or no experience with referral marketing, it would be a mistake to jump into action without preparing yourself. Central to the referral-marketing process is getting people to send you referrals. To do so, they must know exactly what you do–what product or service you provide or make; how, and under what conditions, you provide it; how well you do it; and in what ways you are better at what you do than your competitors. You absolutely must communicate this information to your sources. And to communicate effectively, you must know the same things. Before business owners map out their referral marketing campaign, they must stop and get a clear picture of where their business currently stands.

Leslie commented that when people begin to learn and study opera, they begin with basic works by composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini before moving on to more complex works by composers such as Richard Wagner. In the same way, when marketing your business by word of mouth, there is a place to start before you meet with the people in your network. You begin by preparing answers to some basic questions about yourself and your business like:

1. Why are you in business?
2. What do you sell?
3. Who are your customers and
4. How well do you compete?

The ability to communicate this information to your sources and prospects will be invaluable as you begin to build your network and formulate your plan to gain more and more business the most effective way–through referrals.

Once you master some basic tools, you can move on to a deeper understanding of the process. For example, there are three laws of Notable Networking:

1. Have a positive and supportive attitude, and provide a positive and supportive environment for other business people.
2) Learn how to use networking tools efficiently, including business cards and an informative name badge, and have a business-card case to hold others’ cards.
3) Networking is an acquired skill that requires listening to tapes, reading books/articles, talking to great networks and practicing what you’ve learned.

One great place to get more information on this subject is www.bni.com. I highly recommend that you become familiar with the basic tools of word-of-mouth marketing and begin to implement them in your business so that you can begin to watch it grow. Because, just like appreciating opera, if you don’t begin with the basics, you won’t experience the optimum result.

Finding Good Referral Sources Is Like Kissing Frogs!

I was speaking with Sarah Owen, the master franchisee of The Referral Institute in the UK, and she told me that she often comes across people who are good at giving to others but don’t always get an equitable return from their relationships. Many people want to know how to discern whether a potential referral source is a good match, and what they can do to increase the likelihood that their time and efforts are being invested in relationships that will harvest a positive return.

Sarah shared a great metaphor that she uses in relation to referral sources that don’t pan out by saying, “When we are looking for a good relationship in life, we sometimes need to kiss some frogs to find our prince. People are searching for a way to avoid those slimy, slippery, drawn-out kisses, which can be prolonged over months–sometimes years–only to discover that the frog never turns into a handsome prince.” So how do people avoid those empty, disappointing referral relationships that turn out to be slimy frogs instead of princes? I think some of the questions below that Sarah and I discussed can definitely help qualify a potential referral source/alliance relationship sooner rather than later.

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your achievements?
  • What are your interests?
  • What do your networks look like?
  • What are your key skills?
  • Do you have time to invest in another relationship?
  • From what you know so far, do you like what I do?

By asking at the outset whether the individual has the resources, motivation and time to invest, and by then providing him or her permission to opt out, the only question left is whether the match is sufficient enough to ensure the relationship can be reciprocal in time. As our conversation came to a close, Sarah said that her clients are finding better results using these simple steps. Then, she smiled and happily reported that they are also kissing fewer frogs!

I love this metaphor. Thanks for sharing it with me, Sarah.

Networking Now Blog in Polish!!!!

The Networking Now blog is definately “international”!  For all our Polish language readers, you can find a translation of it every week at:

http://bnipolska.pl/content/view/159/98/

Thanks to Greg Turniak for making this happen.

Ivan

The ‘Three R’s’ of Selling

I did 17 radio interviews starting at 4 a.m. and ending around noon today for my latest book, Masters of Sales. While doing one of the interviews, I was asked by a talk-show host whetherI had any ideas that her listeners might apply during the holiday season to “help consumers who will most certainly be attacked from all angles by commission-hungry sales reps who refuse to conform to the needs of the shopper!” I came up with some thoughts that I thought would be good to share here on my blog.

I called the process the “Three R’s” of buying, which are:

  1. Referrals: Whenever possible, do business by referral. Go to stores where someone has recommended the service provided by the company.
  2. Research: Do some research. Google is great. Get information in advance about what you want. The more you know about the products you are looking for, the easier it is to shop with confidence.
  3. Relationships: Get to know the sales staff of places that you shop. The stronger the relationships you have, the more confidence you have that you will get what you pay for.

When you are actually working with a sales representative, keep these things in mind:

  1. Are they asking relevant questions or are they just trying to sell you what they want to sell?
  2. Are they listening to what you are telling them that you need?
  3. Are they knowledgeable about the products or services they offer?

If they are not doing the three things listed above, find someone else. I told this to the host of the talk-show and she asked, “How do you bow out gracefully with a salesperson when you don’t want to work with them anymore?” I responded that I simply tell them, “I’ll find someone else who can help me.” She didn’t like that answer at all. She said that it was “such a ‘male’ approach” and that women won’t generally be that direct. When I later asked my wife what she does in a situation like that, she gave me some great advice for those people (men or women) who don’t want to be so “direct.” She explained that she gives her first name to the salesperson and asks for their name. When they give her their name, she says she plans on possibly buying something but needs some time to browse the floor for a while. She thanks them for their help and tells them she will find them if she needs any assistance. So tactful… I love her. I’m afraid I’m more direct.

You’re the Average of the Five People You Hang Out with Most

I just attended the international BNI Conference last week with more than 800 directors and members from almost 40 countries from around the world. It was an incredible experience that felt a little like a United Nations meeting!

One of the keynote speakers was Jack Canfield (seen to the right with Amy Brown of BNI, myself and Patty Aubrey of Chicken Soup for the Soul Inc.).

Jack shared many great stories and did an outstanding presentation (I’d highly recommend him to any organization). One of his comments really resonated with me. He said that “we are the average of the five people we hang out with most!” This comment reminded me of my belief that we become what we read and whom we hang around. This is a powerful concept great for anyone (including our children).

So, what are you reading and with whom are you hanging around? With this thought in mind, do you plan on making any changes in the near future? Good things to ponder.

I consider Jack a good friend and have an opportunity to spend a couple weeks with him every year as part of his Transformational Leadership Council. Thanks for your great presentation, Jack. You’ve given us many ideas to think about.

Recognizing Those Who Refer You

Ashley Misner and Galen Metz

This past weekend, I was at a gallery showing for my daughter’s artwork and I overheard a man saying to his wife,  “These paintings would make great thank you gifts for those two interior designers that have been sending so many people my way.”€

(Photo right is of Ashley and Galen Metz, owner of Azo Gallery)

My ears perked up when I heard this and I listened in as he continued laughingly,  “But, then again, giving art as thank-you gifts will probably put me in the poorhouse faster than it would generate more money.”

 

That man had a good point. And no–it wasn’t that buying a truckload of my daughter’s art would make him go broke; because we all know that the investment would be well worth it, even if he did have to sleep in a cardboard box. Okay, all joking aside, his point was that although thank you gifts and referral incentives are certainly an important part of building a business, it’s not always possible to give extravagant gifts that will surely keep us fresh in the minds of those who refer us.

So, what options do we have when it comes to giving good incentives to those who refer us? Well, first of all, we need to remember that incentives can range from simple recognition, such as a thank you, to monetary rewards based on business generated. However, creativity is the key to any good incentive program. Let your contact know when a referral he or she has made comes through and be as creative as you can.

There are many novel ways in which businesspeople can reward those who send them referrals. For example, a female business consultant could send bouquets of flowers to men, a music store owner could send concert tickets or a financial planner could send change purses and money clips.

To make it easier on yourself, get opinions and feedback from others who have significant interest in your success. There are lots of options for referral incentives, and you should consider all that come to mind because the value of recognizing the people who send you business should never be underestimated. A well-thought-out incentive program will add much to your word-of-mouth program.
By the way, you can see Ashley’s art at www.AshleyMisner.com. Sorry, I just had to do it.


Attitude is Everything in Networking

Last week, one of the big items on my calendar of things to do was a marathon day of radio interviews beginning at 4a.m.  As you can imagine, getting up at an hour when roosters haven’t even begun to think about warming up their vocal chords is not the most enticing of tasks.  However, after stubbing my toe in the pitch blackness and yelping out a word I won’t mention here, I remembered that as the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, I had agreed to do these interviews at such an outrageous hour because it is my responsibility to do whatever needs to be done to network for the organization.

Now, can you imagine what would happen if  I answered the interviewer’s first question—which is always “How are you doing today, Dr. Misner?â€?—by grumbling about how I had stubbed my toe and how I wished I was back in my warm bed?  Well, what would happen is that people would be immediately turned off by my negative attitude and nobody would listen to me.

This brings me to my point that in order to be a master networker, you must always maintain a positive attitude no matter what.  With over two decades of professional networking experience, one thing I’ve learned is how important it is to have a positive attitude in order to successfully network.  And if I’m going to go around telling other people how to discipline and train themselves to network effectively, then I darn well better be walking the walk (or at least limping along, stubbed toe and all) and maintaining the positive attitude of a master networker.

Now that I’ve told you about the second most important trait of a master networker, I figure might as well give you the other nine.  Here they are, ranked in order of their perceived importance to networking:

1. Follows up on referrals
2. Positive attitude
3. Enthusiastic/motivated
4. Trustworthy
5. Good listening skills
6. Networks always
7. Thanks people
8. Enjoys helping
9. Sincere
10. Works their network.  

“Happy” Networking!

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