Welcome to International Networking Week

Welcome to the second annual International Networking Week (February 4-8, 2008).

Last year, thousands of people from around the world recognized the week, and even more are expected to recognize it this year during hundreds of large events and thousands of small events and networking meetings all around the world.

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 of 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 proclamations from the governors of Nevada and Maryland, a joint resolution of the California State Assembly and Senate, as well as the county supervisors for the County of Los Angeles).

If you belong to any networking groups, make sure to tell them that this is International Networking Week.

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?

The Three Core Competencies of Referral Success

Last week, I met with my business partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio (seen below with me), and as we were discussing what it really takes to drive your business by referral, one of the first things Mike mentioned was that the first core competency of referral success is the need for correct knowledge.  It didn’t surprise me that Mike would start with this; after all, we co-authored Truth or Delusion–Busting Networking’s Biggest Myths which directly adresses what works and what doesn’t work in referral marketing.  In the book, Mike paraphrases Mark Twain’s statement about having correct knowledge, which appropriately says something to the effect of, It’s not what you know that will stand in the way of your success as much as what you know which isn’t so.

The second core competency in successful referral marketing is to stay engaged with your referral marketing plan.  This is harder than it sounds.  Many referral marketing concepts are counter intuitive.  It’s like telling a driver to turn into a skid.  This is not the natural reaction.  Even when the driver understands it’s in his best interest to turn into the skid, it’s only when he does it that he learns how it actually works.

Referral marketing is the same way.  When we’re going out looking for more business, it’s natural to look for qualified prospects and approach them.  However, referral marketing shows us that we will be even more effective if someone who has a credible relationship with the prospect sent them to us.  We understand this is in our best interest, however it may not be our natural reaction.

So, how do you get the business owner to network in a way that may not come naturally? Some of the solutions Mike and I discussed are to:

*  Stay connected to blogs and podcasts on networking
*  Participate in networking groups
*  Get involved in ongoing referral trainings

The first two core competencies, obtaining correct knowledge and staying engaged with your referral marketing plan, apply to any personal or professional development programs and it is important to keep in mind that though they may be “simple,” they’re not “easy.”

The third core competency, implementing a system to train your network on how to refer you business, is the missing piece that most business people do not have in place to create referral success.  No matter how brilliant you are in referral marketing, or how skillful you are in “leaning into the punch,” if your referral partners are inadequate your results will be insufficient.

Mike gave a great football analogy for this.  He said, “What if Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback at this time, were to get on the field with a team that was lacking skills and knowledge of the game?  Tom Brady would be throwing perfect spirals to players who can’t catch and don’t know their assignments.  It wouldn’t take long for Tom to recognize that he’s better off just keeping the ball and running.  This could be equated in business to direct prospecting.  It is hard work for short yardage.

So, what can we learn from this?  That if you make the three core competencies a priority, you will not only be on the right track for referral success, you will also be gaining much more “yardage” from your efforts!

What has your experience been and/or how do you think you can apply these ideas to your business?

The Speed of Trust

I’m in Cancun this week, participating in the Transformational Leadership Council (a network of transformational trainers and profesionals started by Jack Canfield in 2004).

I had an opportunity again to hear my friend Stephen M. R. Covey speak about his book, The Speed of Trust, and it reminded me just how much I love this book and why it is so important to networking.

During his presentation, he told how Warren Buffet bought a company from Wal-Mart in one single meeting of two hours. Both parties shook hands and, 29 days later, Wal-Mart had its money. In Buffet’s annual report he said; “We did no due diligence. We knew that Wal-Mart would do what they said, and they did.”

In this day and age of long contracts and huge legal bills, this sale was done quickly because there was high trust on both sides. The result was a deal done in less than a month, saving millions of dollars.

Trust is the most compelling form of motivation. Covey spoke about “Three Key Ideas” to move at the speed of trust:

  1. There is a compelling business rationale for trust. It affects cost. There are economic benefits. High trust is a divedend and low trust is a tax. When trust goes down, speed goes down with it. When trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down. This is a dividend, a high-trust dividend. Trust is a qualitative and quantitative factor. Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.
  2. In today’s new global economy, the ability to establish trust is key to every organization. We are interdependent. In a cluttered world, trust helps you cut through the clutter. It is a performance multiplier. When people trust you, everything else you do is enhanced.
  3. Trust is a competency. It is something we create and can get good at. It all starts with self-trust and personal credibility. Are we behaving in a way that builds trust and transparency? Are we keeping commitments and talking straight?

One of the best ways to obtain trust is to extend trust. When trust is reciprocated, it moves faster.

Covey ended his presentation by asking, “Are there people that you work with that you could extend trust to who you can make a profound difference for?” Now the key is to follow your conscience. Develop relationships and extend trust.

I love Covey’s book and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to build and improve his or her personal network.

Shown in photo – Stephen M.R. Covey, Ivan Misner and Greg Link (Covey’s business partner at Covey-Link).

Business Networking Trends (Part 3): Small Companies vs. Large

Here is the final installment of my thoughts about trends in 2008 for business networking.

Small companies will continue to have the edge over big companies relating to business networking.

For the most part, big companies are clueless about building sales through the networking process. They continue to teach salespeople traditional methodologies while relying heavily on advertising to create buzz. Mind you, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these strategies. The problem is–big companies don’t effectively incorporate referral marketing into the process.

When it comes to developing social capital and the networking process, small business is king. Big business is slow to move out of the mindset of splashy ad campaigns, big dollars spent on traditional marketing and the “same old, same old.”

If big business does ever get it, however, it is likely to run over the little guys. Big business will learn how to develop social capital and will teach its people how to do true relationship marketing. Most big business is just a notch or two above the universities in the “you can’t tell me anything new” department. For now, there are only a few forward-thinking big companies that consistently apply these concepts (and I mean very few–I’m working with one large insurance company that may be an exception). For the rest, it is a trend to watch for in the distant, distant future.

The trends I’ve talked about in my last three blogs are not just an American phenomenon but an international one. The introduction of “International Networking Week” is a prime example of how this approach to doing business is growing worldwide.

 

Small business development through the process of building social capital will continue to grow in the global market we are currently experiencing. No one has a crystal ball, but based on what I’m seeing and what I’ve seen in the past, I believe these are some of the key things to look for relating to networking and referral marketing over the next few years.

Business Networking Trends (Part 2): Networking Education

Continuing with my discussion on “Business Networking Trends,” here are my observations about networking and social capital education:

Don’t hold your breath for the colleges and universities of the world to begin teaching networking and social capital. At this point, only two colleges in the world offer regular, core-curriculum college courses on networking and social capital. One is a course at Davis College in Ohio taught by Debby Peters, and the other is a class at the University of Michigan taught by Wayne Baker. That’s it–two colleges!

The college and university systems are behemoths of bureaucracy that are so far behind the curve of small business development that I’m beginning to despair that they will ever catch on. Most professors have never had a real job in the business world and are completely out of touch with what is happening in real life, especially in small business.

I predict that the current trend in networking and social capital education will emerge in the form of private professional training organizations, in much the same way that private industry has controlled the educational market on “sales techniques” (another area in which colleges fail miserably). Companies such as the Referral Institute, which are offering training series specific to the techniques and systems of networking, social capital and referral marketing, are starting to pop up with a very refined and polished slate of seminars and training for business owners who want to learn how to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

Next on “Business Networking Trends:” Large Companies vs. Small.

 

Business Networking Trends (Part 1): Online Vs. Face-to-Face

Several emerging issues and trends surrounding the process of networking are being created out of the need to find an effective way to develop business for entrepreneurs and salespeople in this new century. Over the next few blogs, I will address three of the most prominent trends that I believe will become more important in the coming years. Here is the first one:


Online and face-to-face networking will both continue to flourish.

I’m a proponent of online networks such as Ecademy.com and others. I think they will continue to grow successfully and help many of their members. However, they are not the final answer to business marketing or to networking. They are another great tool for people to connect with others (especially outside their local geographic area).

On my Referrals For Life blog, someone recently said: “I don’t know that it is true anymore that referrals are about relationships.â€? He went on to say, essentially, that technology is changing the rules and that just participating in a website will be good enough. Well, in one word, I’d have to say, “wrong.”

Referrals are and will be, for the foreseeable future, all about relationships. Whether they are relationships built online or face to face, they will still involve relationships. People refer people they know and trust. They will not regularly refer someone just because he or she is listed on a website. That’s called advertising, not networking.

 

Online networking works, but relationships must still be part of the process. Using the internet to exchange ideas, share knowledge and increase your visibility will be imperative in the coming years. Virtual networking is catching on in many circles. Some people involved in face-to-face networking feel threatened, as if online networking were going to replace their tried-and-true system.


Those who foretell the demise of face-to-face networking fail to note one important thing: the facts. Face-to-face networking groups continue to expand. The growth rate of my own referral networking organization, BNI, bears this out. Since the internet first became popular in the mid 1990s, BNI has experienced more than a 1,000 percent growth rate. That is not a typo.

Technology flattens the communication hierarchy and provides opportunities to improve your networking efforts–not replace them. I believe people who understand this will begin to use technology effectively–without replacing relationships–to take their marketing to new levels in the years to come.

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.

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