Brand "You" by Writing

I just found out this week that my most recent book, Masters of Sales, hit the New York Times Bestsellers list.  Of course I am ecstatic about this, but it also got me thinking about what an amazingly powerful advertising and branding tool it is to be a an author.  With each article and each book that I write, I am building brand recognition for me and for my business.  This is a technique that has worked well for many people I know.   For years I’ve recommended that people write as a way of developing personal and professional credibility in their business.  I’m always amazed at how many people say it’s a great idea but then don’t actually do anything about it.

Recently, I’ve formed a small mentoring program for people within my business to brainstorm and talk about writing and how to get published.  Since then, many of these people have published dozens and dozens of articles.  As a result, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on how “you” might like to begin this process.

Let’s be real here—most business people certainly do not have time to sit down and write an entire book, but writing articles are something that most people could find time to do at least once a month.  Writing articles consistently and for an extended period of time is a plausible, virtually costless way to brand yourself and your business by increasing visibility and enhancing credibility in the community—it’s just an idea that most people are simply too lazy to implement.

But for those who are willing to step up to the task, here is my best advice:

• Think about the things you know and understand best, pick out the elements of that knowledge that might be of interest to the general public, and then review the types of media outlets that write for that audience.

• Either by phone or letter, tell an editor why readers will be interested in the feature idea you have or why it’s newsworthy (or better yet, use your network to connect with the editor).

• Stick with it and remain consistent in submitting articles and before you know it, you will be well on your way to branding yourself as a local expert through being a recognized, published author.

A Referral You’ll Feel Good About

I watched an amazing movie today.  It was not a blockbuster but it was an incredible story.  It was Freedom Writers starring Hilary Swank as a high school teacher in a difficult school.  The movie is based on a true story.   One of the secondary points of the movie really stood out to me.   The teacher that Swank played had a difficult time getting books from the school for her students.

I ran into a similar situation a couple years ago when the BNI-Misner Foundation had a request from a teacher that said the school’s library was only open one day a week and there were very limited books available to her students.  She said that she couldn’t teach students math, science, english, or history if they couldn’t read.   That request motivated us to focus more on providing mini-grants for teachers trying to obtain books for their students.  Watching Freedom Writers reinforced our interest in providing mini-grants directly to teachers in schools who need books.

So, why am I mentioning this???  “A referral you’ll feel good about” is any teacher you know who is looking for books for their class.  We’d like to consider them for a mini-grant ($500-$1,000 max).  If you know someone like this, have them send an email to bethmisner@bni.com who is the administrator for the BNI-Misner Foundation.  We’d  like to see if we can help.

Thanks!

What To Do "Before" You Start Networking

I met someone recently who said she’s been having a hard time building her network because people can’t seem to understand or relate to her business.  I asked her why she thought that was and she responded that her business is pretty complicated and when she tries to explain what it’s all about, she can almost see people’s eyes spinning in their heads.

I told her that before she can even begin to network effectively, she needs to find a way to explain her business in a way that people will easily understand.  We ALL need to heed this rule of thumb and be able to clearly and simply communicate what it is that we do by pinpointing key aspects of our business for our potential referral sources. 

My advice to anyone confused about how to clearly explain what it is that they do is to ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Why are you in business (other than to make a living)?  Why do you do what you do?  How does your business serve others?
  • What do you sell?  Most important, what are the benefits—not the features—of your products or services?
  • Who are your customers?  What are your target markets?  Be specific.  Look at all segments of your business to determine the niche or niches you prefer to work with.
  • What are your core competencies, and what do you do best?
  • How well do you compete?  How do you stand out from your competition?

These questions will help you explain what your business is all about, and make you more effective at implementing a comprehensive referral system.  By communicating these aspects of your business to referral sources, they’re learning how they can refer you; and that’s what networking is all about. 

The “Butterfly Effect of Networking"

I am writing to you today from Necker Island in the Caribbean where I am meeting with about 20 business leaders including Sir Richard Branson the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and owner of the Island.

My journey to this island is a dramatic example of the “Butterfly Effect of Networking.”  The “Butterfly Effect” is the theory that a small action in one place may have a ripple effect that creates a dramatic action in another place. It is like a pebble in a pond creating ripples on the surface.

For networking, it is about how a seemingly minor connection or conversation with one person may, after many ripples across the network, end in a dramatic connection later in the process.  This week, I am living that concept to its fullest.

It started several years ago when I received a phone call from a woman I did not know but who has since become a good friend.  Her name is Kim George.  Kim asked me if I would be willing to help with the creation of an online networking and social capital community.  It took some work to put this together, but at the time I had no idea what type of ripple effect this request would have on my life.  I did it because it fit the values and direction that I wanted to take my company in.  With that, the ripple began.

This relationship turned into a strategic alliance, which turned into a speaking engagement, which allowed me to meet Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul), which led to an invitation from Jack to participate in an international organization called the Transformational Leadership Council, which led to meeting a woman by the name of Nancy Salzman, owner of NXIVM Training. Getting to know Nancy led to an invitation for my wife and I to spend five days on the breathtakingly beautiful Necker Island where we have been meeting with financial wizards of business, movie producers,and successful business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson (OK, I won’t hold back this week is a networker’s dream).

The ripples that take place in the networking process may not be clear when the pebble drops into the water and the ripple begins. What is certain is that there is a ripple. If you follow that ripple and make the most of the contacts that you meet during each stage of that journey, it can lead you to making connections and creating relationships that may very well surprise you when you look back to where the journey first started.

Look for more later about the journey of this particular ripple.

Networking a Soft Science? Only to College Professors!

Recently, I had lunch with the president of a Southern California University along with his dean for the School of Business. We spoke about many things but, specifically, he wondered what I thought the school could be doing better to teach students graduating from his university. My answer was easy–“start teaching courses on networking, social capital and/or emotional intelligence.”

He asked me why.  I told him that if you ask the average business person or entrepreneur what one of the most important ways to build his or her business is, he or she will almost always tell you “networking or word of mouth.” So if networking is so important, why aren’t we teaching it?  I told him that social capital (which is the study of resources developed through personal and professional relationships) and emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ for emotional quotient) are key factors to the successful interaction of people with one another.  I suggested that often people may get hired because of their IQ, but they get promoted because of their EQ.  All of these subjects have a strong influence on someone’s success and there is a wealth of research being developed in each of those areas.

The president looked to his dean for the School of Business and asked him what he thought. The dean looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “My professors would never teach that material here.” I asked him why and he said, “It’s all soft science.”

Soft science! Teaching people how to interact with people in an effective way is “soft science!” I should not have been surprised. I’ve run into this many times before with college professors in the past. I was just amazed that this progressive university would take such a position.

We give people bachelor’s degrees in marketing, business and even entrepreneurship, but we teach them hardly anything about the one subject that virtually every entrepreneur says is critically important to his or her business–networking and social capital. Why don’t business schools teach this subject? I think it’s because most business schools are made up of professors who’ve NEVER owned a business in their life. Almost everything they’ve learned about running a business they’ve learned from books and consulting. Well, I’ve read a fair number of books, I was a consultant for many years, and I’ve run my own business for more than two decades. I can tell you firsthand that if you haven’t actually owned a business, you have a handicap in teaching a course involving entrepreneurship.

Can you imagine a law course taught by someone who’s not an attorney, or an accounting course taught by anyone without direct accounting experience? Yet we put business professors in colleges to teach courses related to marketing and entrepreneurship with little or no firsthand experience in the field. Is it any wonder, then, that a subject that is so critically important to business people would be so completely missed by business schools? Of course not. Networking and social capital courses aren’t taught in business schools because most business professors aren’t practitioners. They don’t really understand the importance of this subject for entrepreneurs. Granted, there was little written in the field of networking and social capital 20 years ago (do a literature search. You’ll see), but that is not the case today. There are hundreds of articles and many books on various facets of the area. A thorough bibliography of many of these articles and books can be found in the back of The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret (Revised Edition).

Networking is a field that is finally being codified and structured. Business schools around the world need to wake up and start teaching this curriculum. Schools like any large institution are bureaucracies, so it’s unlikely to happen quickly; however, for those schools with vision, foresight and the ability to act swiftly (sort of the way business professors claim that businesses should act), they will be positioning themselves as leaders in education by truly understanding and responding to the needs of today’s businesses. These schools will be on the cutting edge of business education to better serve their students while positioning themselves as a leading institution for entrepreneurs.

Word-of-mouth marketing works. Social capital is critically important. And networking is the mechanism to develop both. As more universities and colleges open their doors to professors who want to include this strategy with their marketing instruction, we’re going to see a major shift in the business landscape. We’ll see emerging entrepreneurs who’ll be equipped with another strategy for success in business. We will see networking utilized at its fullest capacity, and we will see business schools actually teaching a subject that the business practitioner says is important.

If that doesn’t happen, the private sector will once again step up to the plate and fill the gap for the lack of practical education provided by universities. Just look at sales training. Colleges totally miss the boat on this subject which has created an “after degree” market in sales training done by people like Brian Tracy (briantracyuniversity.com). I predict the same will happen for networking and referral marketing with organizations like the Referral Institute (referralinstitute.com).

By the way, at the end of the conversation during that lunch, I asked the dean about courses on leadership.  I said, “How are courses on leadership any less of a soft science than networking?”  He didn’t have an answer. What a surprise.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Welcome One and All

Welcome to the “Networking Now” Blog here at Entrepreneur.com.  My name is Ivan Misner and I am the Founder & Chairman of BNI – the world’s largest business networking organization and the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute – the world’s leading referral training organization.

I am looking forward to creating an environment where we can talk about topics related to relationship networking, referral marketing, and maybe a few other themes from time to time in a way that helps you, as an Entrepreneur, to improve and develop your networking and marketing skills to grow your business.

Make sure to check back in on a regular basis.  I promise you that we will cover some interesting topics as I travel the world networking with some leading experts on business and marketing.

All the best.

Dr. Ivan Misner
September 17, 2007

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