Partnering With Your Competition

While counter-intuitive, partnering with your competition may be among the best ways to grow your business. By intelligently creating a partnership with someone who you would otherwise work against, you can combine your client bases and maximize on return on your investment. You never know what kind of positives can come from what may otherwise seem like a negative.

Click on the graphic below, or click here, to hear what I have to say.

Introducing Garage to Global

Garage to Global

What does it take to start a home-based business and turn it into a global organization?  I am sharing the many lessons I’ve learned to do just that.

In 1985, I started a small business from my home in Southern California.  Today, BNI has ovBNI Member Growth Through 2014er 7,400 locations in more than 65 countries around the world (see the member growth chart to the right).

From business networking to management, scaling a business, and surrounding yourself with good people, I will be sharing with you the secrets for building a global brand.

Go here and subscribe to my new Garage to Global Channel (part of the Entrepreneur Network) on YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/garagetoglobal.

Share with me below what you think it takes to go from “garage to global” (but don’t forget to subscribe to my new channel. 🙂

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

How to Meet the RIGHT People

A networking event is not–I repeat not–designed to bring strangers together for the purpose of referring themselves to one another.  Why would you refer yourself to someone you barely know?  A typical networking event is designed to have people who don’t know one another meet and mingle.  But for a networking event to be fully productive for you, you must meet the right people for the right reasons.  Meeting the right people will make a positive impact on your business and give you a high return on your networking investment.

Handshake

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, at a networking event, how exactly do you identify the right people to meet?  You do this by considering two types of individuals: those serving your preferred clients and those who have the potential to help you meet your business goals.  Today I’d like to focus on looking at those who serve the same professional client as you.  “Hey, aren’t those folks likely to be my competitors?” you might wonder.  Not necessarily.

Consider these two examples:

  • Lorraine is a real estate agent whose preferred clients are retired home owners or empty nesters with assets over $1 million, who love to travel, are country club members, and seriously pamper their pets.  Other suppliers for their services might include high-end salons and spas, professional landscapers, financial advisors, country club owners, travel agents, home-cleaning service providers, and pet resorts.
  • Tanya is the owner of a direct-mail company that targets colleges and universities.  When Tanya could not determine who else serviced the decision makers at the university, her marketing coach asked her if she had a current client in that preferred market.  She said yes.  Then she was asked, “How well do you know her?  Will she take your call?  Would she grant you thirty minutes of her time?”  Tanya emphatically replied, “Yes!”  Her coach then suggested that she schedule a purposeful meeting and sit down with her to pick her brain on who she grants her time to and who else supports her needs.

Your preferred clients have many suppliers for their needs and it could be in your best interest to connect and build relationships with those other suppliers so, when networking, you want to focus on meeting these people.  The answers to the questions that were asked of Tanya helped direct her to the people she should be searching for while networking.  You can gain the same benefit by having a similar conversation with one of your preferred clients and asking questions like these: “Who else solves your daily problems?” ; “Who do you allow in the door?” ; “What companies do you call on when you need (product)?” ; “Whom do you trust when it comes to helping you (type of service)?”

At networking events, look for name tags that fit specific professional categories you’re seeking to cultivate.  If you meet a professional who services your preferred client–and you like the individual as a person–consider this the first step in building a new relationship.  If you build a trusting and giving relationship with someone who provides services for your preferred client market, it stands to reason that your referral potential will increase dramatically.  Remember that in a true tri-win (that’s win-win-win) relationship, that person’s referral potential will also increase, and the client will get the best service possible.

Be sure to come back next week as I’ll be posting specifically about the other types of people you want to focus on meeting while networking–those who can help you meet your business goals.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear any stories you may have about how you successfully built a relationship with someone who serves the same professional client as you do and how that relationship has benefited you and/or the other service provider .  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below–thanks!

 

 

Jim Blasingame: ‘The Age of the Customer’

I have been good friends with small business expert Jim Blasingame for over ten years and I can fully attest to the fact that his knowledge of what it takes to achieve success in small business is unparalleled (but don’t take my word for it, check out his bio below*).  I am excited to announce that just a few weeks ago, he released a revolutionary new book that will change the way the we think about buying and selling.

This short video offers a quick overview of the premise of Jim’s newly released book, The Age of the Customer, which focuses on the momentous marketplace shift currently taking place that is affecting the way we all do business.  Watch the video now to get a glimpse of what this significant marketplace shift means and to gain an awareness of the greatest danger it presents to business owners across the globe.

Knowledge is power and preparation is one of the greatest keys to success in business; The Age of the Customer arms you with the knowledge you need to prepare your business for lasting success.  CLICK HERE FOR A FREE SAMPLE OF THE BOOK.

After watching the video, reading through the free book sample, or reading the entire book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Jim’s ‘Age of the Customer’ concept–please leave your feedback in the comment forum below. Thanks!

  * Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google.  President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997.  As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language.  A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM launched on January 27, 2014.

 

Branding Small Business for Dummies

While in Mexico for a TLC conference, I had the opportunity to talk to my very good friend Raymond Aaron about his book, “Branding Small Business for Dummies,” and why it’s so important for small businesses to build their brand. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that branding is something only large corporations need to focus on and this video outlines the key points regarding what small businesses really need to know in relation to branding.  For example, if you don’t build your brand on purpose, it get’s built for you and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Watch the video now to learn how to use branding to differentiate yourself from your competitors and to find out how to easily get a free digital download of Raymond’s book, “Branding Small Business for Dummies.”  I can’t recommend this book highly enough and if you are familiar with it, I’d love for you to share your take on the book in the comment forum below–thanks!

How to Get an Edge and Stand out in the Networking World

To some businesspeople, networking is something to try when they’re hurting for business.  However, networking is actually a primary strategy for generating business relationships that lead to more referrals.  When done correctly, networking is a proactive strategy for business growth, not a reaction to slow business.

I think the most important single idea in networking is to do what others don’t Doing what others don’t gives you an edge.  It can position you head and shoulders above your competition.  It helps you stand out in a positive way and, when you do, people are attracted to you and your business, and your success grows stronger, deeper and more durable.

 

So go beyond the norm. Take the time to gather information for improving your business by getting straightforward feedback from people.  This will help you identify your business’s strengths and weaknesses so you can take corrective action.  Some more ideas that most people don’t take the time or effort to implement are:

  •  Adopt the attitude of a host at networking mixers
  • Use your influence and professional status to help members of your network solve problems
  • Learn to specifically ask for referrals
  • Take every opportunity to educate yourself on how to better your business and your networking efforts

What is something you do to go beyond the norm and do what most people don’t when it comes to your networking efforts?  There are so many things you can do to stand out from the crowd and I’d really love to hear your ideas. Thanks!

Raymond Aaron on Brand Creation & Brand Polishing

I had the pleasure of recording this video with my good friend Raymond Aaron while in Canada for the TLC (Transformational Leadership Council) Conference at the end of July and this is a must-see video for anyone wanting to build their business (which, if you’re reading this blog, more than likely describes you).

Raymond says that if you’re having difficulties attracting the clients and the wealth that you want, it’s very likely that this is due to the fact that you’re in an ‘ocean of sameness.’  In other words, you might know how you’re different than your competitors and your clients may very well know it too, but to everyone else out there in the world looking at you, you look the same as every other professional that does what you do.

Watch the video to learn about the easiest way to differentiate yourself using brand creation and brand polishing so you can get out of the ‘ocean of sameness’ for good.

Also, be sure to visit www.Aaron.com to get a FREE copy of Raymond’s book, Double Your Income Doing What You Love.

What Are You Waiting For?

The best referral efforts I’ve seen happen by design, not by accident or wishful thinking.  Many business people view word of mouth somewhat like the weather: “Sure, it’s important, but what can I do about it?”

Referrals and word of mouth can be planned and nurtured.  Anyone, including business owners, entrepreneurs, sales representatives, staff employees, even individuals serving in a volunteer capacity in any field, can accomplish plenty with a well-structured and systematically executed referral plan for a business.

All too often I have seen business people waiting for business to walk through the door.  They think because they are good at what they do, people should be flocking to them. I’m afraid the truth is, it doesn’t work that way! You have to take charge, no matter what business you’re in or how good you are, and bring the business in to you.

I once saw a cartoon strip of two large, ravenous-looking vultures perched on a tree limb, overlooking a dry desert plain. After quite a while, one vulture turns to the other and says, “Wait for something to die? Hell, let’s kill something!” So it is with word-of-mouth marketing. You can’t simply wait for people to come to you. If you do, one of your competitors who also provides good customer service will most likely find them before they show up at your door-step.  If you want to succeed, you have to go get your business, or better yet, have someone else get it for you through referrals.

So . . . don’t wait around.  Do something!

The Five Key Competitive Strategies

A few weeks back, I encouraged you to assess your company’s competitive position and find out whether you’re positioned for success or if your competitive position is in dire need of improvement.  If your position happens to need some help, read on . . .5KeyCompetitiveStrategies

Your competitive strategy consists of the approaches and initiatives you take to attract customers, withstand competitive pressures, and strengthen your market position.  According to Arthur Thompson and A.J. Strickland in Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, there are five competitive strategies you should consider:

  • A low-cost leader strategy: striving to be the overall low-cost provider of a product or service that appeals to a broad range of customers (a couple of examples are Sam’s Club and Southwest Airlines).
  • A broad differentiation strategy: seeking to differentiate the company’s product offerings from rivals’ in ways that will appeal to a broad range of buyers [a couple examples are Nordstrom (known for customer service policies and personnel) and Whole Foods (emphasis on health foods and organic groceries)].
  • A best-cost provider strategy: giving customers more value for the money by emphasizing both low cost and upscale difference, the goal being to keep costs and prices lower than those of other providers of comparable quality and features (a couple of examples are the Honda and Toyota car companies with customer satisfaction ratings that rival those of much more expensive cars).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on lower cost: concentrating on a narrow buyer segment and outcompeting rivals on the basis of lower cost (The Gap is a good example).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on differentiation: offering niche members a product or service customized to their tastes and requirements [examples are Rolls-Royce (sells limited number of high-end, custom-built cars) and men’s big and tall shops (sell mainstream styles to a limited market with specific requirements)].

So, which one of these strategies is best for your business?

What Is Your Company’s Competitive Position?

To find out how you stack up against your competition, take a little time to analyze your competitive status. This exercise will help you understand and emphasize your unique selling position.  How do you differ, and how can you position yourself for the best competitive advantage?

There’s no single formula for conducting a competitive analysis; it’s mostly just good business sense.  Try to stay aware of what your competition is doing and how your business stacks up against it.  For example:

  • Are your prices and costs competitive? — Do customers who compare costs come back to you?
  • Do you compete effectively in terms of product or service quality?
  • Are you seen as the vendor of choice? — Why do people seek you out?
  • Are you growing, losing ground or just holding onto your market share? — Are you waiting to see what will happen and hoping to react in time?

Staying competitive also implies being aware of trends and reacting to changes faster than your competitors. How will changes in technology and society affect the competition? Are your products or services more advanced than those of your competition? Do your competitors have the jump on you with online marketing/social media?

Understanding the driving forces in your industry — growth rates, shifts in buyer demographics, product and marketing innovations, the entry or exit of other competitors, changes in cost or efficiency and so forth — will make you a top competitor.

I highly encourage you to take some time this week to sit down and ask yourself the questions listed above. Once you’ve done this, come back and leave a comment explaining what you learned about your company’s competitive position.

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