networking efforts Archives - Page 3 of 3 - Dr. Ivan Misner®

Sick of Politics and Power Trips?—You Might Be an Entrepreneur

BNIBusinessIndex.com has released its worldwide business survey findings for the first quarter of 2011.  Almost 1,500 business people participated in the survey—people from every populated continent around the world—and the results (see graph on the right)  indicate that, overall, the global economic state is improving.  69.4% of the respondents for the first quarter of 2011 feel that business is growing or growing substantially (compared to this time last year).  This number has increased since the prior BNI Business Index Survey which was conducted during the last quarter of 2010—respondents to this same question at that time weighed in at 67.8%.

Furthermore, half of all business people who took the survey (see the pie chart below) for the first quarter of 2011 (50.2%) said that they would, or possibly would, be hiring people over the next few months.  The retail sector (not shown here) responded with a strong 61.2% to this same question.  This is definitely good news for the global economy and certainly a move in the right direction for the recovery.

What was most interesting in this survey however, were the hundreds of comments offered up by business people and entrepreneurs around the world.

I’ve broken these comments down into six primary categories:

  1. Government Regulation
  2. Changing Target Markets
  3. The Credit Crunch
  4. The Yo-Yo Effect
  5. Natural Disasters
  6. Creative Responses

Government Regulation
Frustration relating to government regulation was adamantly expressed by many respondents and this topic was commented on by more people than almost any other.  A particular comment from one of the survey respondents summed up the frustration best.  This business owner said, “I’m tired of politics and power trips!”

This type of frustration was mirrored by many individuals who complained forcefully about “tax increases killing business . . . serious government intervention . . . the loss of tax credits . . .  mismanagement of government programs . . . and serious regulation.” It’s significant to note that these complaints were not limited to simply one or two parts of the world; on the contrary, these comments were echoed by entrepreneurs based on virtually every continent.  Business owners everywhere unanimously expressed great frustration with taxes and government intervention.

Changing Target Markets
The need to change one’s focus in the marketplace is another theme that cropped up in the recent survey responses.  As one respondent put it, “I’ve changed my target market to one that has both a greater need and a willingness to do something differently.”

Another entrepreneur said, “(Although) business is growing, the comfort zone of (keeping) a client has been lost.  There is a feel of uncertainty for business in the next quarter. The style with which the world does business is changing fast.”

This respondent went on to describe how some businesses are tweaking their target market in order to add on new “market segments” for additional revenue streams.

The Credit Crunch
Many observations were made about the credit crunch.  One was a complaint that seriously resonated with me.  The respondent stated, “I have great credit but Amex has still dropped my credit line by more than 50% in the last two years!!! It’s hard to run a business without a proper credit line.”

Another business owner said, “(There are) still not enough cash reserves or (enough financing) from banks” to support the business.  One individual put this a little differently, stating: “This is just another (line) in the chorus of ‘it is really hard to get loans.’ We tried to get a business loan and got rejected despite great credit because of our lack of a track record. We are only three years in business and were not considered a good risk. Instead, we are taking out a personal loan and will be lending the money back to the business ourselves. Strange but true.”

The Yo-Yo Effect
Many entrepreneurs spoke of the Yo-Yo like market place—business starts looking up and then things slow down.  Things start to go up again, only to fall back down the following month.

One person said their “billable hours more than doubled late last year” only to see them drop during the first quarter.  They went on to say that things are moving upwards again.

Another respondent said, “The adjustments and contractions are still occurring and it has naturally forced many of us to change and adapt. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Natural Disasters
The long series of natural disasters have been a big issue mentioned by many entrepreneurs.  In North America, one person lamented, “My area has been getting pounded with snow, more snow, sleet, and freezing rain which has certainly had an impact on store traffic.”

A survey participant from New Zealand said, “Business here is incredibly tough, particularly since the earthquake – everyone is traumatised and there is a ripple effect through to all corners of the country. However, we are a resilient bunch, and there is an amazing ‘can do’ culture here- so we will overcome this tragedy.”

Many people from Australia wrote about the flooding in Queensland and challenges created because of weather in the country that has dramatically impacted their business.   One respondent stated that the natural disasters in the country have made “people much more reluctant to spend money on services that they perceive aren’t absolutely necessary.”

Creative Responses
Despite the obvious anxiety that exists, many entrepreneurs were hopeful.  People said: “There is greater optimism out there, it is noticeable with clients and prospects . . . since I’ve spent much more time networking I’ve felt the results more than double.” One person said, “I am on track to match last year’s revenue in the first quarter of this year!!!”

Another individual stated, “Consumers are willing to start spending more . . .” He went on to say that he has really focused on building a stronger referral-based business.  He said, “What was good enough three years ago is not good enough today.  This recession has motivated me to get better.”

The following statement from one particular respondent sums up the situation well: “I believe that it is important to not get caught up in what you are being fed. That doesn’t mean hiding your head in the sand, but not getting caught in the hype. Things are always changing, so stop and think how you can be a part of it. Reinvent yourself if you can, or think outside the box. Refusing to participate in the recession and looking to where you can grow are important strategies. If you don’t get caught in the negative (aspects) of change, sometimes you can see opportunity.”

Despite some of the written responses expressing negative perceptions of the economy, the survey results are promising.  With 69% of the respondents saying that business is better today than a year ago, things definitely appear to be moving in the right direction.   Now, if only the government and the environment would cooperate!

What are your thoughts about the results of this survey???

Also – take the 2nd Quarter 2011 BNI Business Index Survey Here.

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Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are based on survey results from BNIBusinessIndex.com.  The data, information, opinions, and comments documented here are not necessarily the views of BNI, its franchisees, members, or this author.

International Networking Week February 2011

Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder and Chairman of BNI (Business Network International, the world’s largest business networking organization) speaks about the 5th Annual International Networking Week, which is February 7-11, 2011. It is a week which is centered around helping businesses in every part of the world achieve growth and success through effective networking.

The End is Near!

No, not the end of the world, silly . . . I’m talking about the end of the recession. Recently, I wrote about “Business Looking up in 2011” which was based on a survey of over 5,000 businesspeople and entrepreneurs at www.BNIBusinessIndex.com.  The survey was a global survey that was taken by people from every populated continent in the world.

The survey found that almost 68% of the respondents say that business is growing or growing dramatically compared to this time a year ago.  What the survey doesn’t explain is why those businesses are growing.

I have a few thoughts, based on my observations recently, which may shed some light on this and also provide insight into how you can grow your business:

  • Innovation in adversity is a key factor. I know a commercial real estate broker in Southern California who said that he had his best year ever in 2010 (and he’s been in business for 26 years).  He cited the fact that he did dozens and dozens of one-to-ones during the year to find ways to work together with other businesses.  His opening approach was to help them.  However, at the same time, it built his business in the process.  This is counter-intuitive to most commercial real estate people he told me.
  • It all starts with attitude.  A product sales company in the UK was about to do layoffs to meet payroll.  One of the sales reps wrote on the whiteboard – “we refuse to participate in the recession.”   Everyone in the office signed it.  They ended up with their best month all year and no one was laid off!
  • Look for new or emerging opportunities.  I met a residential Real Estate agent on the East Coast of the U.S. who told me he had his best year ever last year.  He said he went to investors he’s worked with in the past and told them that “real estate is on sale!”  He said to them, “don’t be one of those people who come to me in a few years and say… “I was crazy not to look at these opportunities.  I should have bought back in 2010!”  He told me this strategy has helped him sell more than any year in recent memory.
  • Be creative with your offers.  I recently met a business coach in the mid-west of the U.S. who created a guarantee for his coaching.  He said, if you follow my weekly coaching program and you don’t raise your income to at least six figures, I’ll continue to coach you for free until you do.  He said it has dramatically increased his sales and has not had to provide any clients with free coaching yet.

If you have any insights / observations about the current upward slope of business or outside-the-box tips on how to boost business despite a challenging economy, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

"New Year’s Resolutions and Networking"

A friend of mine, TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo at right), just wrote a great blog entry which contains some very timely information for many people across the globe and I’d like to take the opportunity to share it with you today as a guest blog.  Enjoy . . .

“New Year’s Resolutions and Networking” by TR Garland

In about 30 days, the majority of people around the world are going to be faced with the same thing we’re all faced with once at a certain point every single year.

No, I’m not talking about keeping a smile on your face while spending the holidays with your in-laws (wink-wink).  I’m talking about setting New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year, one of the top resolutions is to “get in shape.”  The truth of the matter is that most of us already know how to get in shape:

1.  Design a nutritional plan and stick to it

2.  Design a workout schedule and stick to it

3.  Track your actions and results daily and recalibrate if needed

The problem is, a large percentage of people don’t reach their goals because:

1.  They don’t write out a formal nutrition plan or workout schedule

2.  They don’t hold themselves accountable

In other words, life gets in their way.

So what can be done about this?  Well, there’s something about human psychology that pushes us to not let someone else down. Because of this, people who invest in a personal trainer to help keep them accountable tend to achieve desired results much more consistently than they ever would by attempting to get in shape on their own.

It’s important to note that this same concept holds true for business networking and referral marketing.

Many people are spending a lot of time networking by just chatting away with others and maybe grabbing others’ business cards.  By doing this, they then expect results; they expect that the people whom they’ve met and exchanged business cards with will eventually pass a referral to them.  This mindset is called being reactive ( . . . and hoping for the best!).  Being reactive is an employee  mindset or mentality that, in my opinion, gets placed into the same category as punch cards, guaranteed smoke breaks, assembly lines, benefits entitlement, and cubicles.  In other words, this mindset is something that isn’t really that viable anymore in today’s economic environment.

If you don’t believe me, look around and note which businesses are thriving and hiring.  I’m confident you’ll discover that the businesses which are doing well are those that do not have a reactive mindset and, instead, maintain an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is one that takes ownership and focuses on being proactive versus reactive.  Just like the “getting in shape” example above, being proactive and accountable in your business networking and referral marketing efforts is a sure-fire way to get results–plain and simple.

So, especially if you’ll be out attending holiday parties in the coming 30 days with your spouse, significant other, family, or friends, remember to be proactive with your networking efforts.  Go to each event with a purpose (in addition to your goal of having fun).  Don’t simply gather business cards, that’s not what I’m talking about.  Instead, set relevant and realistic networking goals and ask the person you went with to hold you accountable to your goals.

And, of course, there’s a time and a place for everything.  You need to respect the event you’re attending and if the environment doesn’t warrant you achieving certain networking goals . . . grab a celebratory beverage and some festive treats and remember, there’s always next year!

* TR Garland is a Referral Marketing Strategist for the Referral Institute® in Orange County, California where he is a consultant to top performers and entrepreneurs on maximizing their ROI/ROT from business contacts and networking.  Starting in 2011, you can follow TR for his tips, tactics, and techniques on effective networking at his newly launched blog located at www.BeABetterNetworker.com.

 

What’s the Payoff for Developing an Effective Word-of-Mouth Strategy?

Developing an effective word-of-mouth strategy that results in a strong referral-based business takes endless time, energy, effort and, above all, commitment. The actions and steps necessary to create a successful referral-networking campaign are simple, yet far from easy; they take tremendous dedication and drive, and results can be a long time in coming.

So why should you put forth the time and effort to develop a word-of-mouth strategy for your business?  Because, if you commit to doing it right and don’t give up, the payoff can be unbelievably high.

In fact, many businesses have become so adept at referral marketing that they get most of their sales through referrals and spend little or no money on advertising — and they never have to place cold calls. Some of these businesses hire most of their employees through referrals, manage complex financing arrangements and even procure necessary products through referral contacts they have cultivated for many years.

But a referral-based business can reward you in ways beyond those measured in dollars. Dealing with people you like and trust is a better way to live and work than sparring with strangers all day long. You may even find the relationships you form with your referral sources more important than the dollars your new customers bring you. Such relationships are central to both the referral-generation process and the satisfaction you derive from your work.

So, the next time you find yourself doubting whether your networking efforts are really worth it, remember: If you don’t give up, and you continually devote yourself to working on making your word-of-mouth strategy better and better, the payoff can be enormous both financially and in terms of happiness in business and life.

A True Givers Gain Achievement

In 1998, my wife Elisabeth and I co-founded the BNI-Misner Foundation, a nonprofit program supporting charitable causes. We created the foundation because we truly believe in the philosophy of Givers Gain, on which we founded BNI, our worldwide business networking organization. Simply put, Givers Gain means that if you help others, others will want to help you in return (think “what goes around comes around”).

Now, thanks largely to the generosity and kindness of BNI members and directors around the world who also believe firmly in the Givers Gain philosophy, as of May 2010, the BNI Foundation has contributed more than $1 million to charities around the world since its inception 12 years ago.

The foundation has a focus on children’s educational programs but allows donor-directed contributions as well. Looking back on the significant contributions the foundation has been able to make, I am continually inspired by the willingness of BNI members worldwide to give of themselves to help others. They made it possible to donate more than $100,000 to the 9/11 relief effort, $72,000 to tsunami relief, more than $25,000 for Haiti earthquake relief and tens of thousands of dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief. The foundation has built preschools in India, built preschools and a library and put tin roofs on schools in Indonesia, bought school uniforms for students in Kenya and stocked a library in South Africa with books.

Why am I telling you all of this?  I’m sharing these things with you because I truly believe that the more people genuinely give to others, the more successful they will be themselves. I fully attribute the worldwide success of BNI and its members (read some of their stories here) to this very concept. When you give to someone else because you want them to succeed, everybody wins, and you’re setting yourself up for success because the more good you do for others, the more good others want to do for you.

Starting this week, make a continuous effort to conduct your networking efforts, your business and your life with the philosophy that Givers Gain. Help people because you can and because you want to, and you’ll be amazed by the things you can achieve for yourself as a result.

To find out more about the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation, click here.

Become a fan of the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation on Facebook by clicking here.

Being ‘in Sync’ With Your Networking Partners

My wife, Beth, and I were in South Africa recently on safari at Camp Jabulani in the Kapama Reserve. Camp Jabulani has a beautiful suspension bridge between the main lodge and the guest suites. If you’ve ever walked over a suspension bridge, you know the feeling of the springiness under your feet as you walk. It was almost like wearing those Moon Boots I got for Christmas as a boy!

As we made our way over the suspension bridge, we noticed pretty quickly that when we did not walk in sync, the bridge’s flexing and bending jarred both of us as we tried to walk across. When we walked in sync, it was much easier to walk in a way that didn’t make us look like drunken sailors!

This started me thinking about networking relationships and the importance of being in sync with our referral and networking partners.

When I think about walking in sync with other businesspeople, I think of collaboration, cooperation, and maintaining a focus on how we can help each other (what I call Givers Gain). These three elements are critical for successful relationship marketing.

In order to build the kinds of mutually beneficial relationships you desire, it’s important to keep in mind what I call the proximity effect–networking is a contact sport. You must stay in contact with each other in order to benefit from a collaborative relationship. Profiting from a business relationship without staying in contact with one another is like getting a haircut over the phone—I have never seen that done!

Staying in touch can include holding one-on-one meetings with each other to learn more about each other’s business and referral needs, and to ask, “How can I help you?” Having a Givers Gain focus is the most effective way of supporting your referral partners.

We all need to make a commitment to maintain a focus on how we can help each other in business. This is a new thought pattern for most business owners. We aren’t schooled or trained in thinking “How can I help you?” when it comes to those with whom we are in a particular business community. More often than not, we think, “What can I get out of this relationship?” If you do business with a Givers Gain mentality, you will turn that thought pattern on its head.

Relationship networking is a good way to get business; it’s an even better way to do business. As you walk in this rhythm, you will find others getting in step with you, and everyone will do better business as a result.

Moving from Visibility to Credibility

In last Thursday’s blog, I explained that visibility, the first phase of the VCP Process®, brings the opportunity to build credibility and that credibility is what will ultimately get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your networking and relationship building efforts.

So how do you move from visibility to credibility?  Well, once you and another individual achieve visibility with each other, meaning you’re aware of each other and the nature of each other’s business, you begin to form expectations of one another; once those expectations are fulfilled, your relationship can enter the credibility stage.  If each person is confident of gaining satisfaction from the relationship, then it will continue to strengthen.

Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence.  Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified, and services are rendered.  The old saying that results speak louder than words is true.  Failure to live up to expectations–to keep both explicit and implicit promises–can kill a budding relationship before it breaks the surface of the ground and can create visibility of a kind you don’t want.

To determine how credible you are, people often turn to third parties.  They ask someone they know who has known you longer or perhaps has done business with you.  So, how credible are you?  Would the people in your network vouch for you by saying that you are reliable and honest, your products and services are effective, you keep your appointments, act on your promises, deliver results as expected, and can be counted on in a crunch?  If you’re not sure, now is the time to make a strategic effort to build your credibility; without credibility, you can forget about achieving profitability.

If you’re interested in learning more about profitability (If you’re in business, it’s safe to assume you’re very interested. ;-)), the third phase of the VCP Process®, and when you should expect to achieve it with your contacts, be sure to come back and read this Thursday’s blog.

What is the VCP Process?

The key concept in referral marketing is relationships. The system of information, support and referrals that you assemble will be based on your relationships with other individuals and businesses. Referral marketing works because these relationships work both ways: They benefit both parties.

A referral marketing plan involves relationships of many different kinds. Among the most important are those with your referral sources, with prospects these referral sources bring you and with customers you recruit from the prospects. These relationships don’t just spring up full-grown; they must be nurtured. As they grow, fed by mutual trust and shared benefits, they evolve through three phases: visibility, credibility and profitability. We call this evolution the VCP Process(R)

Any successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, is unique to every pair of individuals, and it evolves over time. It starts out tentative, fragile, full of unfulfilled possibilities and expectations. It grows stronger with experience and familiarity. It matures into trust and commitment. The VCP Process describes the process of creation, growth and strengthening of business, professional and personal relationships; it is useful for assessing the status of a relationship and where it fits in the process of getting referrals. It can be used to nurture the growth of an effective and rewarding relationship with a prospective friend, client, co-worker, vendor, colleague or family member. When fully realized, such a relationship is mutually rewarding and, thus, self-perpetuating.

This simple concept has made a bigger difference in more people’s networking efforts than any other single idea I’ve discussed. For this reason, I’m going to devote the next few blogs I write to explaining each step of the VCP Process individually. Come back on Monday to learn why it all starts with visibility . . . I guarantee you you’ll want to read this one!

Learning to Use the Law of Reciprocity: 4 Tips

I posted a blog this past Monday explaining what networkers need to know about the law of reciprocity, and I promised that I’d follow up today with some tips on what to keep in mind as you learn to use the law of reciprocity in your networking efforts. Below you will find four very important things to remember:

Tip No. 1–Giving means helping others achieve success. What is your plan to contribute to others? How much time and energy can you spare for this? Do you actively seek out opportunities to help people? You could volunteer to help out with something that’s important to someone in your network, offer advice or support in time of need, or even work hard to connect someone to a valuable contact of yours.

Tip No. 2–The person who helps you will not necessarily be the person you helped. Zig Ziglar says, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” In other words, what goes around comes around. If you focus intently on helping others, you will achieve success in the end.

Tip No. 3–The law of reciprocity can be measured. It is a myth that networking cannot be measured and, in my latest book, Networking Like a Pro, my co-authors and I use the Networking Scorecard Worksheet, part of the Certified Networker Program offered through the Referral Institute, to measure networking. If you apply the law of reciprocity, you will see your weekly total networking score gradually rise.

Tip No. 4–Success takes getting involved. Contrary to Woody Allen’s assertion that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” you have to do more than simply be present to be a successful networker. If you join a chamber of commerce, become an ambassador. If you join a BNI chapter, get involved in the leadership team. If you join a civic organization, get on a committee. The law of reciprocity requires giving to the group; it will pay you back many times over.

A master networker understands that, although networking is not the end but simply the means to growing a business, service to your network of contacts must always be uppermost in your networking activities. Once you have established a solid reputation as someone who cares about the success of others, the law of reciprocity will reward you with an abundance of high quality referrals.

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