The Power to Get Things Done

thepowerHow often do you hit a slump in productivity? Worse, how often do you know what you should be doing, but then fail to do it regardless? It happens to the best of us, but the good news is that this is entirely avoidable.

Steve Levinson, PhD, and Chris Cooper recently released a book titled The Power to Get Things Done, and in it, they tackle how to turn your good intentions into actions and ultimately results.

This is one of those books that I stand behind, because I really believe that strong businesspeople can benefit from the tools to help follow through. As I said in my foreword for the book, the ability to turn good intentions into action is one of the most valuable assets that anyone who is serious about achieving their goals can have.

For me, the most impactful tips of the book are the keys to maintaining follow-through mastery. Everyone has done it at least once – you work hard to perfect your ability with something, you reach a level where you are satisfied, and then immediately stop practicing because you reached what you saw as the pinnacle. The thing with skills, though, is that you lose your ability when you stop practicing, or striving for better. What this book teaches is to always have goals in mind, and to always strive for your goals – both valuable suggestions to all business professionals.

The Power to Get Things Done was recently released and is available on Kindle or in paperback.

What goals do you consistently set for yourself to help keep your productivity up? Share with me in the comments below!

Marketing Your Business for the Holidays

holidayAre you taking advantage of the holiday season when it comes to marketing your business? You should be! Festive posts really attract audiences who are feeling sentimental, or those who are looking for some services specifically around the holiday season.

Marketing for the holidays doesn’t mean adding a few snowflakes to your Facebook page, and seasonal networking doesn’t mean drinking egg nog with a contact you haven’t spoken to all year. Instead what this means is utilizing the season to show others how much you appreciate them, whether you appreciate their business or their support. Get small gifts for your clients, send out a sweet holiday-appropriate email blast, or even mail a card via snail mail. People love feeling like they’re being appreciated, and it really does increase your reputation with them to show those feelings.

Other ways to take advantage of the holiday season is to offer discounts or other offers to customers who follow your social media. Announce on your Facebook that you will have free shipping on all orders placed between a certain time frame, or say when someone makes an appointment for your service, if they use the phrase “Happy New Year” they get a discount. There are plenty of ways to get creative around the holiday season.

How do you market and network during the holiday season? Share with me in the comments below!

Does Your Business Card Take Care of Business?

Earlier this week, Danealle Marshall of a BNI chapter out of Orlando, Florida, BNI Gold Partners, reached out to me via Twitter to ask a great question that a lot of business professionals will face during their career.

I love this question. Why? As I often say, giving out and receiving business cards is an extremely powerful part of connecting with new contacts. That being said, sometimes your business card can be what sparks someone’s memory of you. Why wouldn’t you want yours to stand out?

In 2003, I released a book with Candace Bailly and Dan Georgevich titled “It’s In the Cards!” In this book, we discuss the powerful tool that is your business card, and how so many people may be under-utilizing this networking tactic.

ID-100275566To answer Danealle’s question, and to build off of some of the ideas we published over a decade ago in the aforementioned book, here are four things that I have seen in my years in business that have really elevated some business cards.

  1. Mix up the orientation. It is such a small change, but making your business card vertical instead of the more traditional horizontal orientation can really help it stand out. People receive and look at innumerable horizontal business cards on average, but you are likely able to remember the last time you saw a vertical card.
  2. Utilize graphics. And no, I don’t just mean your company’s logo. If you include your Twitter handle, consider using the Twitter bird logo instead of using the word “Twitter” on your card. Another option, though use with caution, is including your picture. This can work, but only if the rest of your card is completely spot on and has more of a creative feel. I recommend this more for marketing agencies, or those more right-branded ventures.
  3. Color your card accordingly. Have you ever heard that fast food companies frequently use red and yellow in their logos because these colors subconsciously promote hunger? Think about your product, and about your brand, and if you choose to use color on your cards (which I recommend to at least do minimally), use a color that conveys what you want contacts and consumers alike to associate with your brand.
  4. Consider your company and alter your card accordingly. I’ve seen some very cool cards that really cater to what services or goods a company provides, but I will warn that these can get costly. I’ve seen a video company with cards shaped like a clapboard, and a software engineer whose cards looked like HTML coding. Where this gets ineffective is where you take it too far – bakeries should steer away from an edible business card, despite the appeal.

Have a question you want me to answer in a future blog post or podcast? Write me at AskIvan@bni.com to submit your questions.

The Top 4 Reasons You’re Avoiding Networking

41xThu+7htL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)Late September 2015, Avoiding the Networking Disconnect: The Three R’s to Reconnect, my new book co-authored with Brennan Scanlon was released to the public. So many business people walk into a networking event with the intention to sell, and they never are trying to buy. When you’re in a room full of people, all trying to sell their products and services, but nobody is buying, this is essentially the networking disconnect.

Along with explaining this disconnect, and many other topics, Brennan and I also go into the top four reasons most business people avoid networking. To learn more about connecting over disconnecting, be sure to pick up a copy of our book.

 

Lack of Confidence

Many people fear not being able to contribute in a networking setting. More confident and experienced networkers can intimidate newbies in the crowd. Fear of rejection and an apprehension toward new contacts can also hinder one’s confidence in the networking arena.

These are all mindsets. So many businesspeople identify as an introvert, but are able to get themselves out of their own heads and put themselves out there in the name of building their business.

 

Being Too Busy

No matter what business you are in, sometimes it can just feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. With work, your family, and your friends, do you really have time for any more commitments? Especially something as trivial as networking? You might think no, but the answer is yes, you should! If you want your business to grow, you’ve got to make time for networking.

We all have 24 hours in a day, and seven days in a week. People who seem like they have everything balanced simply don’t have more time in the day than you do, they just prioritize things more than you do. People will always, 100 percent of the time, make the time to do what is important to them. Make networking and growing your business one of those priorities.

 

Impatience

Networking is like farming, because it is about cultivating long term relationships to help your business grow. There is some, but minimal, immediate return on your time investment, but any large reward will take a while to begin rolling in. You need to dedicate the time to build your relationships so that your contacts trust you and are more willing to help you. Don’t let impatience get in your way of growing your business.

 

Lack of Understanding

Despite all the obvious pros to networking, there is still so much misunderstanding about the true gain to be had here. Many believe networking is about selling, which goes right back to our networking disconnect. Networking is something that you do with people, not to people. Walking up to someone and introducing yourself and asking to do business with them is not networking, it is direct selling, plain and simple. Understanding what networking is and how to do it effectively is step one of the journey.

 

Leave me a comment in the field below if you are guilty of avoiding networking. What are you going to do to turn that around?

Open Invitation for the Commonwealth Business Forum 2015

BNI® directors will ask me to produce short videos for them to circulate in their regions regarding events, members who have reached outstanding milestones, etc., and I often do them happily. I was recently asked to do a short video for the Commonwealth Business Forum, and I just couldn’t help but want to share this event with all of you here.

Since 1997, the Commonwealth Business Forum has been an annual event in Malta. This year from November 24-26, Heads of Government, ministers, top business-leaders from around the world and thousands of delegates will attend the forum in Hilton, St. Julians, Malta, where they can showcase their current investment opportunities, and increase transparency with the global business community.

This event is open to all BNI® members, so I highly encourage anyone in the area to attend at least for part of the forum, if not the entirety. Directly following the forum from November 27-29 will be the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting, which isn’t open to the public, but is worth noting, as it is likely many of the issues discussed during the forum will be revisited during the CHOGM 2015.

If you attend the Commonwealth Business Forum, I would love to hear from you! Be sure to come back here and tell me about your experience in the field below.

Talking to Crazy

A good friend of mine, Dr. Mark Goulston, is preparing for the publish of his new book, Talking to Crazy. This book deals specifically with handling those irrational people in your life, whom we all have one or two of.

Talking to CrazyWhen you are networking, you are sure to run into a difficult person from time to time. Oftentimes, the way businesspeople deal with these irrational people can make or break their relationship with not just that individual, but with others as well. Think about it, if you were to watch someone get openly and outwardly frustrated with a difficult person, would you want to connect with either individual? Probably not.

After reading the book myself, I have to say that it is a great resource to help improve everyone’s patience. Whether it’s in our personal life, our work environment, or during our day-to-day activities with the general public, all too often we talk to someone and find ourselves shaking our heads and thinking, ‘This person is crazy!’ But now, with this breakthrough book, Mark has given us the ultimate key to finally understanding how to make sense of the ‘crazy’ and effectively handle the irrational people in our lives. Simply brilliant!

Mark’s prior book, Just Listen, became a chart-topper upon its release, as well. This book is all about learning how to listen to others – not just in professional environments, but in personal life as well. I highly recommend in, as well.

Right now, Talking to Crazy is available for pre-order, but it will officially launch on October 15.

5 Ways Your Network Can Promote You

I’m currently in Asia doing a number of speaking engagements and yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at the BNI Japan National Conference.  Today, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the speech I gave where I explain the following five ways in which your network can promote you:

  1. Display your literature and products
  2. Make announcements for you about your business
  3. Endorse your products and services
  4. Provide you with referrals
  5. Introduce you to people / arrange meetings on your behalf

5WaysSlide

This is content straight from my book Business by Referral and if you’d like to learn about the additional ten ways your network can promote you (which I share in the book but not in this video), click here for an article I wrote specifically on this topic. 

If you have any favorite tactics which you’ve personally found to be highly effective when it comes to putting your networking circle to work for you, please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Have You Created an Identity for Your Business?

If someone asked you what your business’ identity is, would you be able to give them a clear answer?  If not, now is definitely the time to give some thought to how you can create an identity and an image for your business that will work for you around the clock.  Why is this important?  Because, as Jeff Davidson, author of Marketing on a Shoestring says, “The age of the image is here.  From corporations to individuals, the imapact of image is irrefutable . . . the success of your business, whether large or small, often depends on how you position yourself and what you project.”BusinessIdentityQuestion

Positioning can help you create an identity and maintain a secure spot in the minds of those you wish to serve, and I believe the first step to positioning your business is deciding:

  • What you’re going to be
  • What you’re going to offer
  • To whom you’re going to offer it

The concept of positioning was actually popularized decades ago in the early 1980s by Al Ries and Jack Trout.  They observed, “In our over-communicated society, very little communication takes place.”  A company must create a position in the prospect’s mind, recognizing that the most effective communication occurs when optimally placed and timed.

Being the “first” remains one of the quickest and easiest ways to gain a position in someone’s mind.  Who was the first person to walk on the moon?  If you said Neil Armstrong, you are correct.  Now, name any of the astronauts who walked on the moon’s surface on the other NASA moon missions.  Not so easy, is it?  If you’re like most people, you probably have no idea.

When you are properly positioned, you save time because others quickly understand what your company represents and offers.  With positioning, each networking encounter, advertisement, message, employee, and every square inch of floor or office space contributes to the delivery of a consistent theme to the target market.

The identity you develop may be right only for you and for no one else.  You may become the leader in an emerging industry, or a highly successful alternative to the leading company.  You may be the only store open for twenty-four hours or the most exclusive shop in town, exhibiting wares by appointment only.  In the highly competitive, swiftly changing environment which we exist in today, creating an identity that sticks in the mind of others is no longer optional but essential.  

So, challenge yourself this week to do some research on creating an identity for your business.  Start by answering the three bullet point questions above, and then carve out time each day to spend time reading books on the subject or Googling articles on how to create a business identity, brand, and image.  There is an endless array of  helpful business articles available on the internet surrounding this topic.  If you simply spend the time to do the research, I’m willing to bet you’ll come up with a clear answer for people on what your business identity is within a week!

If you have already created an identity for your business, I’d love for you to share about it in the comment forum below.  Let us know what your business identity is and how you went about creating it–I’m very interested to hear your story.  Thanks! 

Follow the Money Trail

How many businesses would you say you’ve supported over the years by being a loyal customer?  Think about it, you could have been solely responsible for the new wing your veterinarian added to her office last year, just from all the money you’ve invested in your pet’s care over the last ten years.  For some businesses, not only may you have been a customer–you may also have recommended them to other people.  When was the last time those businesses returned the favor and helped your business succeed?  There’s a strategy I like to call “following the money trail” which shows you how to leverage the law of reciprocity with the businesses you have financially supported.

Before you read on and get deep into this strategy, go find your checkbooks–both personal and business.  I’ll wait . . . There, now that you have your checkbook(s) in front of you, it’s time to follow the money trail.  Scan your checkbooks for local businesses that you have paid.  You may notice regular expenditures, such as your hair stylist, veterinarian, physician, lawn care service, housecleaning service, dry cleaners, day care, pet resort, or grocery store.

First, let’s put this money trail into perspective.  Start by analyzing just how much you have invested in these businesses.  Get out a piece of paper and draw a table like the one shown below.

29PercentGraphReviewing these figures will help you realize just how much you’ve invested toward the success of some of your favorite businesses.  Staggering, isn’t it?  Now, what can you do with this information?

The law of reciprocity states that if I help you, you will, in time, help me in return.  I would venture to guess that most of these establishments have never been approached by their customers with a request of reciprocity.  What would you say to them?  How would they react?  Why bother?  You might wonder: What could a hairstylist do for me–or for a financial planner–other than style hair?

Seeking reciprocity begins with your willingness to ask the question.  Your request needs to be specific and needs to be supported by how much you have invested in their business over the last year or so.  Are you willing to approach your favorite businesses and ask them to support your business in some way?  If yes, let’s start with the example below and then consider what you could do for your business.

Example: Financial Planner Seeks Reciprocity from Hairstylist

First, the financial planner needs to take the hairstylist–let’s call her Joan–to lunch or coffee and engage her in conversation.

Financial planner:  Thank you for joining me for lunch.  I wanted to get some time with you away from the salon so I could talk with you about your business–and to ask for some help with my own business.  I’ve enjoyed being your client for the last five years, and I’m glad I was able to refer four other people to your salon who have become clients.  I wanted to ask if you might be willing to help support my business as well.

Joan:  I have very much enjoyed you as a client, and I really do appreciate your referrals.  What do you have in mind?

F.P.:  As a client, I receive your quarterly newsletter.  I see that you often have advertisements from community businesses.  Would you give me space in your newsletter for an ad for one year?

J:  Sure, but that would cost about $500 for the year.

F.P.:  I was hoping that you would give me the space for no charge in return for my past referrals and for being such a loyal customer, even after moving twenty miles away.

J:  I see your point.  No one has ever asked me to do anything like this before.  But it makes sense to me since you are actively supporting my business.  The least I could do is give you ad space.  Sure.  I’d be happy to help you.  Is there anything else you’d like me to do?

F.P.:  As a matter of fact, there is.  Could you leave one of my newsletters in your waiting area for your patrons to read while they wait?

J:  Of course–that would be no problem.

In this example, Joan was willing and able to help the financial planner expand her visibility.  Most people, once it’s pointed out to them, understand that the law of reciprocity goes both ways.  If they seem reluctant to help you, it’s time to reconsider your loyalty.  Should you continue to support someone else’s business when he or she flatly refuses to help your business in return?

As a client, you’re giving a lot to someone else’s business.  It’s not unreasonable to ask for something that supports your business in return.  Now think about your business and the businesses you support.  What can you ask of them?  Can you contribute to their newsletter?  Will they display your pamphlet?  Will they post your business announcements?  Can you leave a stack of business cards on their coffee table?  Will they pass out your business’ coupons to their customers at the register?  Will they sponsor your next event?

Make it a point this week to approach at least one establishment for help with promoting your business.  After all, when you follow the money you’ve spent on other people’s establishments, isn’t it about time some of it came back around to you?  Also, I’d love to hear about your experiences with this so please come back and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

 

Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewarding

In a radio interview I once did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly.

But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

Do you have a story others might learn from about a time when referral marketing really paid off for you, or a story about how you experienced the unique risks associated with referral marketing firsthand?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear from you–thanks!

 

How to Zero in on the Benefits of Your Business

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the importance of focusing on the benefits of your products or services (as opposed to the features of your products/services) when communicating with networking partners and potential customers.

Once you have a good understanding of the difference between benefits and features, you can begin zeroing in on the benefits of your business.  In order to do this, your first task is to focus on your best customers.  What problems were they experiencing before they came to you?  What problems did you solve for them?  How did you make their lives easier?  The answers to these questions will begini to connect you with their motives for buying your products or services.  You provided some value to them that was significant enough to cause them to spend their money.  What was it?

An additional task this week is to create a list of the features versus the benefits of just one product or service you offer.  On a sheet of paper, make two columns–one column with the heading “FEATURE of This Product or Service” and the other column with the heading “BENEFIT of This Feature.”

Once you’ve completed this list, begin to include the language of your benefits in your messages to your marketing team, to prospects, and while networking.  It would be a good idea to eventually complete this list for each of your products or services because the more you can communicate the benefits of your products/services, the more people will see the value of what your business provides.

Come back next week to learn how to simplify your message and make it more specific and, in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in regard to any questions you may have about benefits vs. features and/or get your thoughts on what you may have learned or realized about the true benefits of your products/services through creating your features vs. benefits list.  Please share your questions/thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

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