Three Basic Ways to Network Your Startup

startupWorking in a startup is completely different than an established company, and comes with its own unique set of challenges. Not only do employees or founders of a startup need to be conscious of these different challenges, there are also keys to business that become even more important when you work with a startup.

Not only do you need to attend networking events, you should host them. When you attend an event, you will stick in the minds of those who were also in attendance. Ideally, you’ll make positive impresses on everyone you connect with. When you host an event, however, not only will people who you connect with at the event remember you, so will everyone you invited but couldn’t make it. While their impression of you won’t be as developed as those who attended, invitees who couldn’t make will remember that they were invited, and it will be easier to hit the ground running with them when you finally do make that connection.

The follow up is vital. A huge part of networking is that follow up, and letting those that you connect with know that their time is appreciated and that you want to continue developing that relationship. When you are working on starting your business, that follow up becomes a tool of its own. Your number one priority needs to be growing your business, gaining notoriety, and establishing new connections in your industry to help support that growth. Letting people know that you’re thinking of them, whether they are new contacts or old, helps to develop those relationships and can keep you moving forward.

You need to lose some ego. As business people, we’re smart. Not only that, but we need to be confident to succeed in business. What that doesn’t give you the right to do is to allow your ego to control your actions. Whatever reason you’re involved in a startup, whether you were looking to break into a different industry, or you’re on the latest of many new businesses, your reputation cannot carry you here. With a new venture, you need to develop a new name for yourself, so you cannot rely on what you have accomplished before. It can help you get part of the way, but you must lose the ego if you want to go far.

Have you ever worked with or owned a startup? What advice would you give to those just starting out? Let us know in the comments below!s 

Referral Marketing: Know the Risks, Reap the Rewards

ID-100252028During a radio interview, 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!” He was visibly shocked by that answer. I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that referral marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral marketing that aren’t an issue with commercials or other forms of advertising.

When you give someone a referral, you’re putting your own reputation on the line. If your referral partner does a good job, it enhances your reputation. But if he does a poor job, your reputation will likely suffer. 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 her, 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 your referral partners. Once those strong connections are forged, you can rest easy, knowing that 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.

 

How to Become a Charismatic Introvert

ID-10066405I am a natural introvert. I know, I know. Shocking. It can be hard to believe that I might be a bit shy, considering how many dozens of times a year I get up in front of audiences and speak on a variety of topics. However, even an introvert is able to muster up some charisma and get in front of a crowd. To build up your own charisma, here are a couple tips you can try.

First things first, develop some interests. Read the news, listen to the radio, travel, watch speeches done by people you consider charismatic or by people who are leaders in your field. It is generally easy for people to talk about things that they find interesting, or things that they know about.

Another great way to build up some charisma is to go into your conversations with a positive attitude. Nobody wants to talk to a Debby Downer. Plus, if you act happier, you may even trick yourself into feeling happier.

Talking with hand gestures can actually help you feel more confident, as well, and come across in your charisma. The catch here is don’t overdo this, as it can quickly spiral out of control and cause you to seem a little scattered and off-putting.

Finally, your body language can do a lot when it comes to your charisma. Are your shoulders tense and bunched up toward your neck? Are your knees locked while you’re standing? Are you figditing? These are very obvious signs of being uncomfortable. Consciously work to control these, and you may just see your confidence and charisma skyrocket.

What steps do you take to build up confidence when speaking in front of strangers or large groups? Share your tips in the comments section below!

Using Your Unique Selling Proposition

uniquesellingOne of the biggest issues I see or hear when it comes to networking and word-of-mouth marketing strategies comes from the individual businessperson’s mindset. So often, people believe that in order to network successfully and set themselves up for the most referrals, they need to tell everyone who will listen (and some who won’t) everything that their business does. This misconception simply leads many to believe that by talking to everyone in the room, they’ll maximize their referrals.

This is not at all the case. What this actually does is bores your intended audience, and overwhelms them with more information than they could ever possibly remember.

The key instead is to come up with a unique selling proposition for your company, business or service, and use it when you network. Your unique selling proposition will be a brief summary of your business, the key word here being brief. You’ll want to share this description as concisely and as engaging as possible. Not only will your audience walk away understanding what you do, but if you have described your business in a compelling way, they’ll be more likely to remember you because you entertained them and kept them listening.

The biggest indicator of a good unique selling proposition is that it gets people to ask you more about your business, and keeps them genuinely interested in what you do. They should be short, sweet, and to the point, without being vague or misleading. Your goal is to open the door for a conversation, not leave any potential contacts confused.

What is your business’s unique selling proposition? How do you use it to get word-of-mouth referrals? Tell me in the comments below!

Three Reasons Why Your Mentor is Your Greatest Asset

Where is your cell phone? Close by? Some of you may even be reading this on your phone right now. Most professionals will have easy access to the internet, and so many of us will jump straight to Google when looking to answer the simplest of questions.

mentoringGoogle can’t always answer your questions, though. Articles and message boards can only get you so far. Occasionally you will have a question or concern in your business so specific that you would really benefit from a direct answer to your situation. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons why every successful businessperson could benefit from a mentor. So why should you have a mentor? Here are three reasons why a mentor could be invaluable to your business.

Hone your craft

Your mentor will likely be someone who has years of experience on you in your field. They know how to accomplish tasks that you might not, and as a person who has a genuine interest in you and your success, they will teach you how to communicate more effectively, succeed at a networking event, or set worthy and empowering goals. Whatever your hurdle is, your mentor can help you overcome it.

Access to relationships

So often we forget the power of the network those in our network have. As you are networking and working to grow your business, your mentor once upon a time did the same for their business. Their network is a powerful resource to you, and they would likely be more than happy to get you in contact with members of their network as need arises.

Building your confidence

Having a mentor can help build your confidence in numerous ways. For one, having an individual that you trust and respect backing you, perhaps someone with a reputation in your industry, can help you feel as if you have made the right decisions. Additionally, hearing their stories from when they were at the same juncture in their career can help you see your situation with a different clarity, and help you feel empowered.

Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you the most? Leave your comments in the field below!

Use Your Networks to Build Your Business

It's not net-sitBusiness owners are always looking for new ways to expand their client base and grow their business. Many, as they work to bring their business to the next level, join networking organizations. These organizations can be great ways to meet new people, expand your pool of referral partners, and hone key skills like public speaking and delivery. The key to being a part of these organizations, however, is really working the networks that you are a part of. Remember, “It’s not called ‘NET-SIT’ or ‘NET-EAT” – it’s called ‘NET-WORK.’”

When looking for organizations to join, also remember that it can be beneficial to even join organizations from three or more of the categories of networking groups. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, as one group likely won’t meet all of your networking needs. There are seven key types of networking business organizations. These are:

  1. Casual Contact Networks
  2. Strong Contact Networks
  3. Community Service Clubs
  4. Professional Associations
  5. Social/Business Groups
  6. Women’s and Ethnic Organizations
  7. Online/Social Networking

Join as many or as few as your time allows, but always give your best effort to promoting yourself and your business in each. Which groups you select will directly affect your referral marketing’s success.

To pick the groups that are right for you, first take some time and think about what types of organizations you truly want or need to join. Your participation in the group is what will make you successful, not how many you join, so be sure to join the ones that you have time for and want to take part in. Second, you must find some of these organizations in your area. You can try to join an organization across the world from you, but if you can’t physically commit yourself to the group then you won’t get return on your investment.

Next, be sure to visit as many of these groups as you can and get testimonials from current members. Just as you want referrals for your business, you would want current members to give referrals for their organization. Finally, visit the group one more time before you decide to join. Many groups have nuances that you may not pick up on at your first meeting, so give yourself plenty of time to see the whole group.

There is no quick fix, and growing your business will take effort. Above all else, dedicate the time to your networking strategy that it deserves, and meet other qualified business professionals regularly to develop your referral-based business.

How many networking organizations are you a part of? Have you found a combination of groups that gives you the most bang for your buck? I’d love to hear your thoughts on networking organizations, so please leave your comment in the forum below! Thanks!

3 Tips for Putting the Butterfly Effect of Networking in Motion

IvanRichardBethSome years back, I posted a blog detailing how my introduction to Richard Branson was completely the result of the Butterfly Effect of Networking.  In thinking about that blog post, it occurred to me that an important part of the reason I was able to make such effective and rewarding networking connections was the way that I thought about, and therefore went about networking. Here’s what I mean by that . . .

While it’s important to know the right things to do while networking, it’s equally important to start thinking the right way to make your networking efforts as successful and dynamic as they can be. This involves altering your mind-set. Here is an up-close look at some elements you’ll want to include in your mind-set to ensure networking success:

  1. The law of reciprocity or Givers Gain® approach.

Don’t approach networking thinking ‘I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me?’ Instead, remember the old adage Give and you shall receive? The law of reciprocity takes the focus off of what you stand to gain from the networking relationship, and in doing so, creates bonds based on trust and friendship. Put it to the test. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

  1. Diversity in networking.

Look for groups that don’t target people just like you. In this way, you’ll broaden the net you seek to cast for referrals.

  1. Farming mentality.

It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops and there’s no quick return. But, when you spend time and take care in building relationships, your networking will yield extraordinary results.

Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Make an effort to spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle and you will certainly make more and better connections.

Do you have any tips for developing a networking-friendly mindset which positions you for success?  I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts, comments, and ideas in the forum below.  Thanks!

Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

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.

Keith Ferrazzi: Build Trust by Breaking Bread

As most of you who read this blog are avid networkers, it’s highly likely you are already familiar with Keith Ferrazzi.  If you aren’t, however, I can tell you that if the dictionary had a photo to accompany the definition of “master networker,” the photo would be of Keith.  He is absolutely the epitome of a master networker, and he has the most diverse group of contacts of anyone I’ve ever known.

Keith’s first book, Never Eat Alone, is a bestseller and the entire premise of the book is that networking over a meal is an absolutely amazing way to build rapport and trusted relationships with people.  After I read it, I found myself constantly referring to it in conversation and recommending it to people because it really is true–something magical and companionable happens when people break bread together.

I wanted to share this video with you today because, in it, Keith talks about his own key strategies for hosting networking dinner parties, and I think the “dinner party tactic” is one that not a lot of networkers have dabbled with.  I would love to see networkers around the world, both novice and seasoned, experience the amazing, relationship-building power that hosting a purposeful dinner party can have.

Keith believes that the strongest links have been forged at the table.  Because of this, he has mastered the art of throwing a networking dinner party and, in his networking content, he consistently emphasizes the power that throwing a dinner party can have in creating memories and strengthening relationships.  He is quick to mention, however, that if we continue to have dinner parties with the same people, our circle will never grow.  His solution is to identify and invite “anchor tenants” to your party.  These are people who are related to your core group but who know different people, have experienced different things, and thus have much to share.  They tend to be the people who have had a positive influence on your friends’ lives.  It’s akin to inviting the CEO to the manager’s table, as Ferrazzi says.  Soon other executives will want to be there too.

I had the opportunity to experience one of Keith’s networking parties firsthand and the anchor guest that night was the legendary author Gore Vidal.  Providing the entertainment was America’s oldest collegiate a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs of Yale.  Clearly, not all of us will be able to get Gore Vidal and the Whiffenpoofs at our networking party, but I’m guessing that Keith didn’t have them at his first party either.  However, the strategy is sound and I encourage you to try out the concept as a way of building your visibility in the community.  Keith has paid close attention to how a meal can most appropriately be leveraged for a business networking opportunity; the primary focus should always be on developing the relationship–learning about each other, helping one another with problems, and giving ourselves.

I invite you to visit KeithFerrazzi.com to learn more about Keith, and I highly encourage you to check out his content on networking–it’s absolutely fantastic!

If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Short

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often think that networking is all about talking business and exchanging cards, but that’s a definite misconception.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, then relate your business to it.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

In one networking group I worked with, I introduced an exercise called the GAINS Exchange, in which people share personal and professional information about themselves. Two of the participants in this group had known each other for more than a year but had never done business. During the exercise, they discovered they both coached their sons’ soccer teams. They quickly became close friends and were soon helping each other conduct soccer practices. After a few months, they began referring business to each other–two guys who had barely spoken to each other the first year because they seemed to have so little in common.

By finding a common interest and starting with that, we can make connections that have a very good chance of turning into business. Try this strategy out for a while and then come back and leave a comment to let me know what your experiences have been–I’d love to hear about them!

The Greatest Referral of My Life

If you’re familiar with BNI, the business networking organization I founded back in the mid ’80s, you may be aware that this year is BNI’s 30th anniversary and we’re honoring it with a celebratory video series.  Today, I’d like to share with you one of the videos from the series which is especially important to me because, in it, I talk about the greatest referral of my lifetime.

Throughout my thirty year career in networking, I’ve been privileged to receive more than a few remarkably noteworthy referrals–and I’ve seen and heard of some truly amazing referrals being passed to others.  However, nothing–and I mean nothing–has come close to being as remarkably noteworthy as this one referral which has changed my life in countless ways for the better and continues to define the center of my life.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear from you about what the greatest referral in your life has been up to this point.  I’m sure you have some amazing stories and I hope you’ll share them in the comment forum below–thanks in advance for your participation!

 

 

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