PR Helps Your Networking Efforts

Next to word of mouth, publicity is the most cost-effective strategy you can use to market your business.  It increases your credibility and helps you position yourself ahead of your competition–as long as it’s positive publicity, of course.

The main objective of publicity is to announce or inform.  Publicity is usually free; in most cases, you don’t have to pay to get your press release into the paper.  You (or a professional writer) draft the press release, but someone at the paper edits it and turns it into an article before it’s published.

There are many online resources available to teach you how to structure, design, and format your press release. When you’re ready to submit it, you can either use a distribution service such as PRWeb.com. or submit it to your community’s local publications yourself.

Networking your business is more than just going out and shaking hands; your business also needs to generate publicity to increase your visibility and credibility.  Professionals recommend that your business generate a press release once per quarter to remain visible in your industry and community.

For tips on writing a press release, CLICK HERE.

What Does It Take for You to Refer Someone?

At the BNI International Conference in Long Beach this past November, I had a great conversation with my business partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio (pictured to the right).  He was explaining why he feels there are only a few criteria that must be met to make people referrable by him.

The first criterion is that the individual is must be an expert at what he or she does.  He looks for people who have invested in learning their trade and continue to invest to master their trade.  Do they specialize in a certain area?  What achievements have they attained in their area of expertise?

Another one of Mike’s requirements is that the person is passionate about what he or she does.  This, especially, makes a lot of sense to me because if you’re not passionate about what you do, how could you expect other people to get excited about working on your behalf?

Mike’s last criterion stipulates that the person he is referring understands and honors the referral process.  More specifically, Mike wants to ensure that the person receiving the referral understands his or her number-one responsibility.  To quote Mike, “The number-one responsibility when you receive a referral is to make the person who gave you the referral look great.”  As long as the people Mike gives referrals to are doing this for him, Mike can remain confident that his reputation will be protected.  It also compels him to continue giving these people referrals.

Mike’s list of qualifications that make a person referrable is short, yet very powerful.  After discussing it, we both agreed that we should expect others to evaluate our referrability by these same criteria.  Are we invested experts, and do we continue to invest in our trade?  Are we passionate about what we do?  Are we practicing what we preach?  Do we make our referral sources look great?  I’m glad to say that I’m confident we both do all of these things.

So what makes people referrable by you?  I’m sure many of you have some great ideas in response to this. I’d love to hear them, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Become a Motivational Speaker for Your Business

Have you ever listened to a motivational speaker such as Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy or Zig Ziglar?  When you listen to any of them, you can feel the passion flowing through the presentation’s words, actions and images.  The hidden element behind a motivational speaker is passion.  Think about that.  What does that tell you about your own message?

Your personal challenge in networking is to have an extraordinary message that not only captures but also highlights your unique selling proposition (USP).  Your USP is what sets you apart from your competition–you can’t afford to be ordinary, like your competition.  Your message needs to be filled with passion.  If you are not excited about what you do, no one else is, either.  In word-of-mouth marketing, that could be disastrous.

So how do you tap into your passion and tie it into your daily message about your business?  You can capitalize on your passion and spotlight your uniqueness by specifically answering the following questions from your heart and not your head:

1.  What can you say about yourself or your business that your competition cannot say?

2.  How does your work fulfill you?

3.  What element of your work do you most enjoy, and why?

Never forget that one of the top 10 traits of the master networker is enthusiasm/motivation.  You, your sales force and your word-of-mouth marketing team are the motivational speakers for your business, but the message begins with you.

Social Capital Taught in College?

UniversityOfLaVerne

About a year ago, I posted a blog called:  “Networking, a Soft Science? Only to College Professors!”  OK, I’ll admit it–I was on a rant about how we don’t teach networking in colleges or universities.  But in my defense, there were many, many, people who identified with this frustration according to the numerous comments posted on that blog.

Today, I’m here to tell you that there may actually be a change on the horizon.  Yes, a university dean who believes that social capital is a relevant topic in business.  “Not possible,” you say?  Well, that’s what I thought, too, until I met Ibrahim Helou, the new dean of the School of Business & Public Management at the University of LaVerne.

Ibrahim "Abe" Helou

Ibrahim “Abe” Helou

As crazy as this may sound, he actually believes that emotional intelligence and social capital are relevant topics to cover in business school.  To make this even more amazing, Helou’s background is in accounting and finance. Wow, I don’t know what to say. This just shakes up my whole world view about academia.

According to Helou, business should focus on issues relating to long-term organizational sustainability.  He says that the “three pillars” of organizational sustainability are: people, planet and prosperity.

The “people” part includes long-term employment, social capital and empowerment.  The planet involves social and ethical responsibility and prosperity is about the long-term financial success of the organization.

Did you notice that “long-term” is a recurring theme here?  I did.  He believes that there has been an overemphasis on short-term profits to address monthly or quarterly revenue reporting in corporations.  This short-term view has helped lead us into some of the current financial issues we are experiencing today.

Well, Dr. Helou, I’m impressed, especially with your interest in social capital and emotional intelligence.  Now all you need to do is convince the faculty.  Let me know how that works out for you.  🙂

The Culture of Entrepreneurism

I just attended the BNI International Conference in Southern California.  There were almost 1,000 people from 40 countries around the world at the event.  It looked like a meeting at the United Nations with people from different countries and different accents all meeting for several days.  It was amazing to watch business people from various cultures working together to network and build each other’s businesses despite their differences.

It was appropriate that Brian Tracy was a keynote speaker at this event because he and I spoke about the subject of cultural differences and doing business a few years ago.  We had lunch in San Diego and I asked him if he changed his material when he did seminars in other countries.  He said that he didn’t.  He said that entrepreneurs want to do things more efficiently or more effectively.  If you can show them how to achieve either of those, the cultural issues are not as big a factor as many might believe.

This made me start to think about why structured networking programs work so well and in so many countries.  It occurred to me that there is a “culture of entrepreneurism” that in many ways transcends other cultural issues.  The core of this process is the importance of trust.  When people get to know and trust each other, that factor supersedes many cultural factors. 

Different people, different places; different countries, different cultures; different races, different religions, we all want to do business with people we trust.  While there may be many other things to divide us and separate us, we all speak the language of referrals.

Capture Your Success Stories

Many of us are taught as children that we should refrain from bragging about our successes. But there’s a caveat to those rules that our parents usually didn’t teach us: The rules apply to our individual, personal lives–not our businesses.

Success stories about businesses and entrepreneurs are vital for those of us dedicated to learning all we can in order to make our own enterprises as successful as possible.  What’s more, having your own success stories heard could bring you opportunities to network your business far beyond the playing field of the typical networking arena.

Here are four approaches to capturing your success stories:

1.  Ask for written testimonials: Get satisfied customers or colleagues to write letters on their own letterhead to spotlight their positive experience with you and your business.

2.  Write down two success stories: Highlight your successes to help your network understand who best represents your preferred client.  These stories should clearly emphasize what you do better than anyone else.

3.  Write a personal introduction: Provide your network with material they can use when talking about you and your business with people who fit your preferred client profile.  You don’t want your sales force making stuff up about you, right?  This simplifies their task and ensures accuracy.

4.  Toot your own horn: Tell people about the good things your business does.  This isn’t about crowing over your amazing golf handicap or complimenting your own fine taste in silk ties.  It’s about spotlighting your business’s strengths, as well as its legitimate good works in the community.

Do What You Love And You’ll Love What You Do

As an adjunct university professor for almost 20 years, I would often have students say to me, “What kind of business or profession should I consider going into right now?”  I would respond by asking them, “What do you like to do?  What do you really enjoy?” They’d respond by saying something like . . . “No, no, you don’t understand, I’m asking what I should do?” And I’d reply back by saying . . . “No, you don’t understand, what do you like to do?  What are you really interested in?”

They’d look back at me, obviously perplexed, and stutter out something about trying to figure out what a good profession to go into would be or what kind of business they should start. I would proceed to explain to them that you can’t achieve sustained success over time without doing something you love.  Therefore, they should think about what they really enjoy doing and look for opportunities in those areas.  

According to the NFIB (the National Federation of Independent Business), it’s estimated that 60 percent of all businesses started in the late ’90s “were based on hobbies or personal interests.” More and more you see people turning their dreams into their livelihood.

I saw a great example of this in action when I attended a fundraiser for Azusa Pacific University over the weekend.  During the evening, the program highlighted a graduate from the physics department. His name is Steven Moser. He graduated in 2001 from the university. After graduation, he worked at NASA’s JPL in Pasadena.  While Moser was working at JPL, a close family member died in a tragic accident. Moser and his wife (who also had a very successful career) evaluated their lives and decided to make a major change. They chose to pursue a hobby they had had for some time, making all-natural body care products and turning it into a full-time business. This would enable them to work from home, spend time with the family and do what they really love.

Steven’s company is called Anti-Body. It not only offers all-natural body-care products, but it also promotes global fair trade. It sources all its raw materials directly from workers in developing countries, creating sustainability for those that might be exploited in most markets.

This is a great example of doing what you love and loving what you do. Moser changed the course of his life to do what he loves.  His business seems to be thriving, and he definitely loves what he is doing.

I understand that loving what you do is no guarantee that you’ll be successful. However, I am equally confident that if you’re not happy at what you’re doing, you can never achieve any sustainable success over time. So if you’re thinking about starting your own business, do what I used to tell my children when they couldn’t figure out what ice cream they wanted to eat. Stick your tongue out. Wave it around. What does it feel like? Pick something you really want. You’ll be happier (and I’m not talking just about ice cream).

‘Multi-Touch Marketing’ Helped Win The Presidential Election

OK, the economy was clearly the big factor in this presidential election.  However, that aside, I am in awe of the “multi-touch marketing campaign” by President-elect Obama that helped steamroll the election.  No matter what party you are with or which candidate you supported (I’m an Independent), you have to admire the technology strategy implemented by the Obama-Biden team.  It was, I believe, the first true 21st century presidential campaign.

This “new millennium” approach to politics involved a mixed-media plan that began with an online video announcing Obama’s candidacy.  The campaign then used Facebook and YouTube extensively.  A social network for the Obama-Biden ticket was also utilized throughout the process.  Supporters created their own websites and linked back to the campaign website.  E-mails and text messaging were used extensively, and donations came in droves through this process.

Technology flattens the communications hierarchy.  In this campaign, technology was implemented with such an effective multi-touch methodology that the results were amazing to behold.  The campaign used multiple points of influence to pull people through to the election.  It is a case study that we entrepreneurs can draw from to market and promote our own businesses.

If President-elect Obama and his team run the country as well as they ran this campaign, some amazing things may take place.

Why Join a Chamber of Commerce?

In addition to joining a referral networking group, you should also consider further diversifying your network by joining your local chamber of commerce.  A chamber provides a broad membership base but usually within a defined geographic area, such as a town or a county.  Depending on the nature of your business, this kind of local membership could be of significant importance.

Unlike a referral networking group, professional society or trade association, a chamber does not limit the number of people who can join from any one profession or industry.  The local membership may include, for example, several commercial interior designers.  Membership in this chamber of commerce would thus give you an opportunity too meet more than one prospect for your word-of-mouth marketing team.

Chambers conduct social and business events where you can socialize and develop relationships.  Becoming a member of a chamber of commerce provides opportunities to give back to the community and capitalize on significant member benefits; serving in the leadership raises your recognition, visibility and credibility, as well as that of your business.

So make it a point to investigate your local chamber of commerce.  Find out where the office is and request membership information.  Ask for the names of members you can contact.  Attend an event or two to see whether the membership is a good fit for you; for a small fee, you can probably visit a chamber mixer.  Take your time, do your homework and locate a chamber that knows how to hold networking events and has strong membership.  Membership is not free, but it’s far less expensive than traditional advertising.

Face to Face: How to Reclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World

Earlier this month Susan RoAne’s latest book, Face to Face: How to Reclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World, was released. I think it is an essential read for everyone interested in becoming a better networker.

Susan has been a good friend of mine for years, and she is one of the few people I know whom I can confidently say is the epitome of a born networker.  In her new book, she uses her innate charm, grace, humor and rare networking know-how to teach people everywhere how to communicate like an expert and stand out positively in both business and personal situations.

The world is becoming more and more reliant on technology as a way of connecting, and Susan’s techniques and strategies for making and maintaining genuine connections show people how to let technology enhance life instead of dominating it.  Her advice is extremely effective, and the skills she teaches are important for networkers and everyday people alike to remember.

To find out more about Susan RoAne and Face to Face, click here.

Ask Your Own Questions

The law of reciprocity is always working, and it even has an impact on our conversations when we’re networking.  If you want someone to ask you a specific question, ask her the same question first. She’ll think, “that’s a great question.” After she answers, she’ll probably ask you the same question in return.  (If she doesn’t, she might be an “all about me” person–someone you want to avoid.)

Here are 10 great questions to ask someone while networking that are then likely to be asked of you in return.

1.  What do you do?
2.  Who’s your target market?
3.  What do you like most about what you do?
4.  What’s new in your business?
5.  What’s the biggest challenge for you and your business?
6.  What sets you apart from your competition?
7.  Why did you start your business?
8.  Where is your business located?
9.  What’s your most popular product?
10.  How do you generate most of your business?

Before attending your next networking function, think about what you want other people to ask you.  To get the most out of the law of reciprocity, take the initiative and ask those questions of each person you meet.

Seek Out a Referral Networking Group

How much would it benefit you to have several dozen salespeople working on your behalf to bring you new business?  That would be something, wouldn’t it?  Wait, it gets better.  What if you didn’t have to pay them a salary or commission?  What if you didn’t have to provide them office space or fund their retirement plans?  Well . . . that’s what referral networks can do!

You may already have caught on to this not-so-well-kept secret, especially if you’re familiar with any of the books I’ve written; but if you’re new to the world of networking, then the first thing you should do is seek out a referral networking group.  Make sure you find a referral networking organization that provides a structured system for generating business by referrals.  You want to join a group that demonstrates real purpose and is results-oriented.

When you join a good referral networking group, you are providing yourself a means to easily implement the new networking strategies you learn with people who have also become skilled at networking their businesses.  When you surround yourself with quality business professionals who have committed themselves to continually taking the time to focus on networking, you will develop the genuine, long-lasting relationships that will lead to years of future business.

So, if you haven’t already joined a networking group, start searching the internet for networking groups in your area and make an appointment to visit a local chapter.

Click Here to learn what to look for when choosing a networking group.

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