What Does It Take to Achieve Success through Word of Mouth?

In order to run a successful word-of-mouth campaign, you need to build an arsenal of credibility-enhancing materials.  You should always have these at your disposal to make the most of every networking opportunity

Note: Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list of items needed to market your business.  The items in this list are focused on enhancing your networking activities which will lead to greater word of mouth and referrals.

1-Testimonial letters from satisfied clients

2-Photos of yourself, your office facilities, equipment, and/or products

3-Logos of your key customers

4-A list of your memberships and affiliations

5-Question-and-answer sheets

6-Photos of awards and certificates you and your staff have earned

7-Articles you have published, or in which you’re mentioned

8-A one-page flier

9-New-product or service announcements or press releases

10-Current brochures, circulars, and data sheets, and product catalogs

11-Items that reflect your “brand”

12-Items that help you explain your business to your network

13-Client or customer proposals, bid sheets, or marketing letters you have written to existing clients

14-Articles on trends affecting your target market

For the sake of space,  I didn’t go into much detail here regarding each of the items in this list but I can certainly go into plenty more of an explanation as to what these items entail.

I’ll leave it up to all of you blog readers to weigh in on whether or not you’d like to see a follow up blog explaining each of the items listed above . . . so, leave a comment and let me know–should I write a blog giving the details regarding these items?  Thumbs up, or thumbs down?? . . . Thanks!

 

The Top 2 Things You Must Do to Succeed at Networking

Last week, I was asked a question by a young business owner who is quite new to networking.  She asked me what I believe to be the most crucial things a person needs to do in order to achieve the maximum amount of success in generating business referrals through word-of-mouth marketing.  In response to her question, I’d like to revisit a video I filmed a while back because in it I talk with Terry Hamill, a respected business networking expert based in Europe, and he  Terry explains the two most important keys for maximum effectiveness and success in business referral generation–preparation and follow up.

Terry advises that the true gold is in the follow up and that the most successful networkers use the strongest follow-up methods; he also offers a few important tips for preparation prior to attending networking meetings and events.

Do you have a favorite follow-up method or a highly effective preparation tactic that you use prior to attending networking functions?  If so, we’d love to hear about it!  What works well for you could really help other people in their journey to networking success so, by all means, please feel free to share your favored methods and tactics in the comment forum below. Thanks!

Got Business Goals?–Connect with Those Who Can Help You!

Last week I posted a blog on how to meet the right people and I focused on explaining how to meet people who serve the same professional client as you.  Today, I’d like to continue this discussion but I’d like to focus specifically on how to meet people who can help you meet your business goals.

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First off, if you haven’t set business goals then let’s stop right here–you need to make that your top priority this week!  If you do have business goals, don’t let them collect dust on your bulletin board or get covered up in your drawer.  Make it a point to review them each month.  Choose a goal.  The big question you need to ask yourself is “Who do I need to meet to help me accomplish this goal?”

It’s tough to make it alone in today’s competitive business environment.  Even the biggest sports stars or governmental candidates can’t reach their goals alone–so why should we try to go it alone?  Let’s say that one of your business goals this year is to write an article for a local paper.  How would you network your way to achieving that goal?  Well, first, you would start reading the paper.  You’d find out who writes the articles, who writes for other papers in your area, who the editors are, etc.  Then you would get the word out to your own network as there’s a fair chance it includes someone who could put you in contact with the right individual.  You would let it be known that you wanted to meet writers, editors, and others working for local papers so you could gain insight and knowledge into how they accomplished something you were aspiring to do–you would also let it be known that you were in no way intending to try to sell to these people.

You would also look for networking events sponsored by these publications.  You’d probably find staff members there providing support and you’d want to focus on meeting and speaking with the right people–professionals connected with the publication–again, with the intention of learning how to write an article for your local business paper.  No matter what your goal is, writing and publishing an article or otherwise, if you network with the people who have the experience and connections to guide you toward your goal, you will be well on your way to accomplishing it.

Another example of this strategy is to think of the people involved in the six degrees of separation study.  They had a goal to achieve . . . to get a package to a specific person whom they did not know.  I would venture to suspect that the successful people in the study began by scouring their network for the right people who could help them accomplish this goal.  Choosing anyone and everyone would have increased the links along the way . . . which was obviously the strategy of the 71% of the people who never connected at all.

In summary, remember:  When you’re considering asking someone in your personal network for a favor, ask yourself whether she’s simply a contact or an actual established connection.  Avoid the trap of having unrealistic expectations of your network, such as support that your contacts may feel you don’t deserve.  You have to earn the loyalty and engagement of your referral sources.  Your current goal has two parts: (1) to meet the right people, and (2) to develop deep relationships with them over time.

So, to help you pinpoint who you should be focusing on meeting the next time you’re at a networking event, make a list of the following:

  • 5 professions (other than your own) that serve your preferred client market
  • 2 business goals of yours
  • 2 individuals you might seek out for help in accomplishing goal #1 and 2 individuals who might help you meet goal #2

How do you feel about the list you came up with?  Do you find it helpful?  Does it give you a clearer picture of where you want your business to go and who you should focus on meeting in order to steer your business in that direction?  I’d love to get your feedback on this so please leave your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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!

 

 

Free Monthly ‘Networking Cafe’ Webinar–You’re Invited!

In this video, filmed at a recent networking conference in Nashville, TN, I talk to my good friend and partner in the Referral Institute®, Eddie Esposito, about the monthly Networking Cafe webinars we offer to the public.  These FREE monthly webinars offer invaluable information about how to grow business through networking and referral marketing and we often have guests on the webinar who are experts at helping people achieve business success.  Past guests include Jack Canfield, Michael Gerber, and Susan RoAne, among others.

These “Networking Cafe” webinars take place on the last Friday of each month and all you need to do to find out how to participate (we welcome you to ask questions during the webinar) for free is to visit the following link: http://referralinstitute.com/index.php/en-us/networking-cafe.

Thanks so much for watching this video and I really hope to interact with you on one of the upcoming webinars in the near future.  Also, if you have any suggestions for topics which you would love to have addressed on a future webinar, by all means, please leave your topic suggestions in the comment forum below–I’m  more than happy to address all valuable and relevant topics.  Thanks!

Networking Fundamentals to Boost Your Bottom Line

Today I’d like to share with you the newest networking video from the educational video archive housed within NetworkingNow.com.

Have you ever wondered what the ONE secret to success is in regard to networking for your business? In this video, I reveal the answer to that very question and I also explain four key networking fundamentals which are guaranteed to boost your bottom line.

This video is just one example of the vast array of educational content offered on the NetworkingNow.com website—there are literally hundreds of business and networking downloads available in the site’s online library and you can access all of them for FREE for six months by entering the free subscription code given below.

The free subscription is a gift from BusinessNetworking.com and all you have to do is enter the code (“freesixmonths”) on NetworkingNow.com to gain access to the entire library of content!  Please note that you will be required to enter a credit card number on the site but you will not be billed for the free six month membership subscription.  As subscriptions are based on a recurring system, you will need to end your subscription if you don’t wish to be billed for the second six months.

I always enjoy feedback from BusinessNetworking.com readers, so please leave a comment regarding your thoughts on this video and also let me know what type of downloadable content you most like to access on sites like NetworkingNow.com:

  • Video?
  • Audio?
  • PDF Articles?
  • Digital Books?
  • Something Else? If so, what specifically?

Thanks!

9 Questions to Help You Start Gaining Visibility through Volunteering

One of the first steps toward networking your business is to become more visible in the community. Remember that people need to know you, like you and trust you in order to refer you. Volunteering can position you to meet key people in your community. It connects you with people who share your passion. It gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talents, skills and integrity, as well as your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and breadth of your network.

 

People who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Thus, you should be volunteering with organizations or causes for which you hold genuine interest and concern. If administrators or other volunteers perceive that you are in it primarily for your own gain, your visibility will work against you, and you will undermine your own goals.

Volunteering is not a recreational activity; it’s a serious commitment to help fulfill a need. To find an organization or cause that aligns with your interests, you need to approach volunteerism with a healthy level of thought and strategy.

Start by asking yourself the nine questions below.

1. What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your spare time?

2. What hobbies do you enjoy?

3. What sports do you know well enough to teach?

4. What brings you joy and satisfaction?

5. What social, political or health issue are you passionate about because it relates to you, your family or your friends?

6. Based on the answers to the first five questions, what are three organizations that you can identify that appeal to you? (Examples: youth leagues, libraries, clubs, activist groups, church groups, homeless shelters) Choose the one that most appeals to you, and research the group online and in the community.

7. Now that you’ve researched this group, will it give you an opportunity to meet one of your professional or personal goals? If so, visit the group to “try it on.”

8. Now that you’ve visited this group, do you still want to make a final commitment of your time?

9. Are other group members satisfied with the organization? (To learn this, identify three members of the group to interview in order to assess their satisfaction with the organization. Consider choosing a new member, a two- to three-year member, and a seasoned five- to six-year member to interview.)

Once you’ve done the research required to satisfactorily answer these nine questions, join a group and begin to volunteer for visibility’s sake. Look for leadership roles that will demonstrate your strengths, talents and skills. In other words, volunteer and become visible. It’s a great way to build your personal network.

Are you already an active volunteer?  If so, what organization do you volunteer for and how has it helped you gain visibility within your community?  I’d love to hear about your experiences so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

5 Key Things You & Your Referral Partners Must Know about One Another

So often, I see people who are frustrated about not getting more business referred to them. After all, they say, isn’t that what business networking is all about?

What many of these people don’t seem to realize, however, is that they need to actively share information (5 key things, in particular) about themselves with the right people before they can expect to have business referred to them by the people in others’ networks.

The fact is, it’s not enough that you’re great at what you do and can offer a lot of value to new clients. To win referrals from networking, you need to ensure that your contacts have all the necessary information about you and your skills so they can go out and persuade third parties to come and purchase your product or service. It’s amazing how many people fail to recognize this.

There are actually five key things that are essential for the members of your network to know about you before you can expect them to refer business your way. Equally, you need to know these same five things about them so you can reciprocate.

I call this process of reciprocal sharing of information the GAINS exchange, based on the first letter of each of the five essential informational pointsGoals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills:

  • Goals: What are the objectives that are important to you; what are the problems you want to solve? Not just financial and business goals, but also personal and educational objectives.
  • Accomplishments: What big projects have you completed in business or as an employee? What are your accomplishments as a student or parent?
  • Interests: What are the things you really enjoy doing? The music you like to listen to, the hobbies you spend time on, the sports you like to play or watch? People are more willing to spend time with people they share interests with.
  • Networks: Each of your contacts is a part of many networks. Do you know what these are, how big they are? Each of us has the potential to connect with hundreds or thousands of people if we cultivate these resources.
  • Skills: What do you do especially well? What are the professional areas in which you excel? Don’t be afraid to share this information with your contacts, and learn about the talents and abilities of the people in your network as well.

These are not mysterious pieces of information. They are facts we are exposed to every day, if we look for them.

By remembering the GAINS exchange, you can make sure you don’t overlook this essential information about your networking contacts.  Is there an additional piece of information you make a habit of giving and getting when it comes to networking relationships?  If so, what is it and how have you found it to be effective?  I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences so please share your feedback in the comment forum below—thanks!

Referral Marketing: Know the Risks, Reap the Rewards

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.

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!

What’s the Difference Between a Weak Referral and a Quality Referral?

I’m often asked by people whether or not it’s possible to distinguish the difference between weak referrals and quality referrals. The answer is YES. 

There are varying levels of referrals, starting at a level that’s just one step above a cold lead. These types of referrals are ranked in quality from lowest to highest. Number one is the lowest-ranked type of referral (the least desirable) to give and receive, and number eight is the highest (most desirable). You can use the referral level rankings below to help distinguish quality referrals from weaker ones.

1. Names and contact information only: Getting the name and contact information from a referral source is better than nothing—but not much.

2. Authorization to use name of referral source: This indicates you’ve established good credibility; however, the work of developing the prospect still rests with you.

3. General testimonial statement and/or letter of recommendation and introduction: This is a noteworthy accomplishment, and it demonstrates that the referral source trusts you.

4. Introduction call: This takes the effort on the part of the referral source up another notch and paves the way for communication from you.

5. Note or letter of introduction, call and promotion: This implies an even higher level of commitment on the part of the referral source. It is an outright recommendation of your business accompanied by a description of its features and benefits.

6. Arrange a Meeting: Here your referral source is acting as a facilitator for you. This conveys to your prospect that your referral source has a deep trust in and approval of your business.

7. Face-to-face introduction and promotion: Your referral source is now actively engaged in selling your product or business, rather than just being a meeting facilitator.

8. Closed deal: After your referral source has described the features and benefits of your product or business, he then closes the sale. This is the highest level of referral you can achieve.

Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between a weak referral and a quality referral, think about the referrals you’ve been giving to others recently . . . are most of them more similar to the type of referral outlined in number one (in the list above), or closer to number eight?  If they’re closer to number one, think about how you can start giving referrals that are closer to number eight because, the fact is, when you consistently generate stronger referrals for others, they’ll be more inclined to generate stronger referrals for you.

So, how might you focus over the next few weeks on increasing the quality of the referrals you’re giving?  Please share your ideas in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

How to Make the Most of Holiday Season Networking Opportunities

With the holidays quickly approaching, I asked my friend and partner in the Referral Institute, Dawn Lyons, to share her thoughts on the unique networking opportunities which she feels go hand-in-hand with the coming of the holiday season.

From intimate family dinners, to office parties, to festive social gatherings, the holidays tend to bring people together more than any other time of year.  In this video, Dawn explains how to make the most of the networking opportunities which come along with people gathering together to celebrate during this time of year.

Watch the video now for great tips on how to maximize your networking effectiveness during the upcoming season by asking specific questions and finding powerful ways to give to others.

Do you have a particularly effective holiday networking tactic or strategy?  Do you often give a certain seasonal gift to your business associates that really goes over well, or a certain way of investing in and strengthening your relationship with friends and family members who you haven’t seen in a while?  If so, please share it in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this–thanks!

Education Plus Preparation Equals Optimum Results

During a conversation some years ago with Leslie Fiorenzo, a colleague of mine in the networking organization I founded, she 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–preparation is key to success. 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 CDs, reading books/articles, picking the brains of great networkers and practicing what you’ve learned.

One fantastic place to get information about all things related to networking is NetworkingNow.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.

If there is an educational resource which you’ve found to be specifically valuable and effective in learning to network, I urge you to share it in the comment forum below so others might utilize it and benefit from it as well.  After you leave a comment, be sure to send a quick e-mail to larry@bni.com with the subject line “Blog Comment” so he can reply to you with a coupon code for a free six-month subscription to NetworkingNow.com.

 

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