Strategy Archives - Page 4 of 10 - Dr. Ivan Misner®

Why Wait for Business? Go out and Get It!

Photo courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

So . . . don’t wait around.  Do something!  Think of three things you can do this week to actively strengthen your referral marketing efforts and please feel free to share your ideas in the comment forum below–you never know whom your great ideas might help!

In-Person Spamming

At a recent Referral Institute®  conference in San Francisco, one of the organization’s top trainers, Tiffanie Kellog, took a few moments  to chat with me about the concept of in-person spamming. If you’ve ever encountered people who use networking as a face-to-face cold calling opportunity, so to speak, then you’ve been the subject of in-person spamming.

Watch the video now to learn why Tiffanie sometimes compares networking to speed dating and to get our combined take on the real point of networking, where people tend to go wrong in their networking approach, and how to know when it’s appropriate or inappropriate to give another person your business card.

If you’ve had an experience with in-person spamming, please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

How to Uncover Referral Opportunities by Reading the Newspaper

Most people read the newspaper to gain insight into local and world events and news–and that’s all.  I’m suggesting that you try reading the paper a little differently–to look for opportunities for referrals.

Photo courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pick up your local newspaper and scan the front page. Turn to the local section, then the business news, and then the lifestyle section. The paper is teeming with opportunities for you to act as a gatekeeper for the people in your network. Every page presents problems or significant issues of one kind or another.

What are people saying? Who is talking about problems or changes in her company or industry?  What is happening that could have a direct impact on you or someone in your network?  Who is in need of the services of someone you know?  Where are there networking opportunities for you and your marketing team?

So why not start out by reading the paper this week with referral intent for two people in your network?  Find each of them an opportunity or a lead that they might capitalize on through their network.  Then find your own business a lead or two on which you can capitalize, and begin to ask your network for help in making the connection for you.

Clearly, these are more “leads” than actual “referrals.” However, there’s nothing wrong with telling a business associate about the details you just read about relating to a new company moving into town.  It’s good to show your referral partners you are looking out for them and–you never know–it could turn into something good.

Try this strategy out and then please come back and leave a comment to let me know how it worked out–I’m very interested to see what happens!

The Top 7 Things I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Heading the World’s Largest Business Networking Organization

BNI-30-Year-Logo

BNI’s Official 30th Anniversary Commemorative Logo

30 years ago this past Thursday, I put together about 20 people in a small coffee shop in Arcadia, California for the very first meeting of BNI® (Business Network International).  The organization was run from a small bedroom which was converted into an office inside my house in La Verne, California.

The House Where BNI® Began

The House Where BNI® Began

I am humbled by the fact that today the organization has over 7,000 chapters in 60 countries with over 170,000 members world-wide.  In addition, we have over 30 BNI staff at HQ and more than 3,000 BNI Directors and Director Consultants working for the organization!

I don’t believe any of the two dozen or so people who were present at that first meeting fully realized that this was the beginning of something amazing. 

That realization came to me almost a year later between Christmas and New Years as I looked back in amazement at having opened up 20 groups during the year.  At this point I recognized I had struck a chord within the business community.  We don’t teach networking in colleges and universities anywhere in the world, and business people are hungry for referrals. They simply had no viable way to generate them regularly back in 1985.  It was during that week that I sat down and put together the outline for a plan that has evolved into what BNI is today.

I was recently asked by a BNI Director what the secret to this growth was.  I’ve taken some time to write down some of the key factors I think contributed to our success as my answer to his question.  These are factors you won’t find in most business books, and they weren’t taught to me in graduate school.  But I think they were critical to our success in this organization and they may be relevant factors to you, too.

BNI's Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

BNI’s Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

Lessons I Learned in Developing BNI:

  1. Set Goals. I know – everyone says “set goals,” but let me give you a slight variation to this concept.  I recommend you set three levels of goals.  By setting goals in this manner, you give yourself some flexibility in where you want to go over the next year (or years).
    1. High – set a goal that is a stretch. This is one that will be very difficult to reach, but it is definitely possible.
    2. Target – set a goal that you are confident you can reach. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely possible.
    3. Low – set a goal that if everything goes wrong, you are still confident you can reach this.
  2. Reverse engineer your goals. At each level above – where do you want to be at the end of twelve months from now?  That number would be 100% of your annual goal.  Now reverse that.  At nine months you should be at 75% of that goal.  At six months, you should be at 50% of that goal.  At three months, you should be at 25% of that goal.  Check your progress every month.  Stay on track.
  3. Do six things a thousand times, not a thousand things six times! I think one of the big mistakes businesses make is that they jump from one bright shiny object to another. For me, success has come by being like a “dog with a bone!”  I have taken techniques that I’ve seen work, and then I’ve done them over and over and over and over.  Six things, a thousand times.
  4. Create a larger vision. It’s never too early or too late to create a larger vision.  Create something that is a unifying concept for you, your employees, and possibly even your clients – something that resonates with people and creates a long-term vision for the company.  For BNI this began with our philosophy of “Givers Gain.”  It has been inculcated throughout the organization and has been the guiding force of our referral-marketing program.  It led to our vision statement of “Changing the Way the World Does Business” which is all about businesses collaborating and cooperating through our philosophy.
  5. Maintain personal engagement. As a company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to be personally engaged in every aspect of the business.  That means you must make choices.  However, you must continue to be personally engaged as much as possible.  Technology has enabled me to stay engaged with members and directors (through my visitations, video messages, this newsletter, my blog, the BNI Podcast, our social media, and BNI Connect, to name a few). Nothing replaces personal engagement.  The more you remain engaged, the more your vision can thrive.
  6. Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. One thing I’ve learned over the last 30 years is that I can teach people “how” to do something (including network).  I can’t teach them to have a good attitude, and I don’t have time to send them back to Mom to get retrained.  The only thing better than “ignorance on fire” is “knowledge on fire.”  If I can take someone who is on fire and teach that person how to succeed, our organization becomes unstoppable.
  7. Do what you love, and you’ll love what you do. As a business person, you are either working in your flame or working in your wax.  When you are in your flame, you are on fire.  You are excited and energized.  When you are working in your wax, you are drained and fatigued.   As a company grows, it is easy to get caught up doing more and more in your wax.  Find out what your flame is, and then do your best to work more in that flame.  Find people whose flame is your wax and put them in the roles you no longer love doing.  This will free you up to work in your flame.

I’d love to hear any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or observations that you might have about the BNI organization whether you’re a member of the organization or not and I’d also really like to hear any key lessons or tips for success which you’ve learned through your own experience in the world of business.  Please share your thoughts, etc. in the comment forum below–thanks!  

 

 

 

 

 

How to Persevere in the New Year

My good friend Julien Sharp is a brilliant editor who has worked on a countless number of writing projects for me and done a top-notch job. She is also founder of Funnybone Toys® and Funnybone MuseTM, a fantastic networker and businesswoman, and an exceptional author who contributed a great article entitled “From Mickey Mouse to Cruise Ships” to my 2007 bestseller, Masters of Sales.

Julien Sharp

Julien Sharp

The article talks about her early childhood dream to be a musical performer on The New Mickey Mouse Club, how that transitioned into a desperate longing to become a cruise ship entertainer, and how she went from a kid growing up in rural Indiana to a successful cruise ship entertainer performing in exotic locations like the southern Caribbean.

Although Julien’s story is certainly an interesting one, the reason I bring up her article is not to detail her journey from Mickey Mouse to Cruise Ships, but to focus on the main points in her article, which explain how she achieved success.

Julien says that even today, she’s never forgotten a quote she read as a young girl from Lee Iacocca: “You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it badly enough, I can have it.’ It’s called perseverance.”

This idea became the mantra that guided Julien to success. She says, “I had to have the perseverance to finish what it took to achieve my goal, and I had to realize that perseverance virtually never comes into play without the first two words in the quote: ‘I think . . .”

As a result of making Iacocca’s quote her mantra, at an early age Julien learned:

  1. To convert her dream to a specific goal
  2. How to research her target market
  3. To create an impassioned sales presentation, and
  4. To sell with passion.

Julien’s all-encompassing goal was to sing on a cruise ship, so she researched her client (cruise ship companies), rehearsed her presentation (created a demo cassette, packaged with the most professional photo she could afford, and included an introductory letter detailing her experience, education and the absolute passion she had for achieving her goal), used her enthusiasm as her best selling tool (all her money and every ounce of emotional desire went into 12 demo packages destined for various cruise lines in Miami), and persisted in chasing her goal. It’s no surprise that she achieved that goal, and now she continues to achieve even greater goals with each new year.

So, what’s your goal this week? This month? This year? Please share your answers in the comment forum below and if you really want to achieve your goals, remember the Iacocca quote, take a lesson from Julien, and learn to persevere.

Year End Reflections and Goals for the New Year

For many cultures around the world, today marks the dawning of the new year.  Here in the United States, most people were up at midnight, full of energy, excitedly celebrating the clock striking 12:00 a.m.–the start of 2015 and, more importantly, the chance for people to start fresh and move forward in business and life in bigger and better ways.  So, what was I doing to celebrate the new year? . . . I was giving thanks for the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful view from my lake house in Big Bear, CA  (pictured below) and it moved me to record this video about year-end reflections and new-year goal setting.

The Current View from My House in Big Bear, CA

The Current View from My House in Big Bear, CA

The thing is, the only reason I’m able to sit here enjoying the life I’ve created is that I continue to reflect on the goings on of each passing year and strategically set new goals to accomplish bigger and better things with each coming year. New Year’s Day is the perfect time for all of us to sit down, take stock of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the past year and forge ahead in the new year with a fresh set of goals and a specific plan to achieve those goals.

In this video, I talk about how I go about setting goals each new year and I share the template (shown below) I use for outlining my goals on paper.  I share my main goals for business and life in 2015 and I would really love to hear your goals for the new year as well so please share your goals in the comment forum below.  Thanks and Happy New Year!!

GoalsAndControlsReportTemplate

Getting to the Referral Stage with a New Contact

People often ask me how to move a relationship with someone they just met to the point where the new contact feels comfortable passing them a referral.

I always say that the best way to get to this next referral-passing stage depends in part on how you came into contact with a person in the first place.  Let’s say you met while giving a brief presentation to a group of people who are in your target market.  Assuming you did a good job, then you absolutely have the possibility of receiving a referral, even though you just met.  Why? Because the presentation moved you from visibility to credibility in the new contact’s mind and now they’re probably willing to risk their reputation and recommend you to someone they know.

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The same thing is true when you’re out networking.  If you have a good conversation with someone and truly add value to the conversation, then moving from visibility to credibility isn’t that difficult, and you’ll be in great shape for getting some referral-based business.  What’s more, it’s not terribly important whether the person is someone you might do business with directly.  Even if your businesses don’t match up, the other person might have information that’s useful or might know other people you’d like to get in contact with.  It’s often worthwhile to develop a networking relationship with people who have little in common with you because they can bring an entirely new network into contact with yours and broaden your business horizons.

 

Just bear in mind that even if there is a strong possibility that you’re going to do business with this new contact, it’s probably not going to happen there at the networking event, where conversations last anywhere from an eye-blink three minutes to a long-winded seven.  Instant business is not likely to be had.  But if you follow up with a quick note a few days later, you can make some one-to-one time and come up with ways the two of you can help each other.  That meeting is where you’ll have your best opportunity for a quick referral.

 

What has your experience been with moving to the referral stage with new contacts–do you have a tactic that seems to be particularly effective?  If so, please share it in the comments section.  Thanks!

How to Set Goals for the Year Ahead

As 2014 draws to a close, many people are beginning to think about what goals they would like to accomplish in the coming year. In light of this, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you how I personally go about setting and achieving my own goals.

Watch the video now to get my top three tips on how to plan your goals and what actions to consistently take in order to achieve success when it comes to reaching your goals.  Also, I’d love to hear what tactics have worked for you in regard to goal accomplishment so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

How to Zero in on the Benefits of Your Business

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the importance of focusing on the benefits of your products or services (as opposed to the features of your products/services) when communicating with networking partners and potential customers.

Once you have a good understanding of the difference between benefits and features, you can begin zeroing in on the benefits of your business.  In order to do this, your first task is to focus on your best customers.  What problems were they experiencing before they came to you?  What problems did you solve for them?  How did you make their lives easier?  The answers to these questions will begini to connect you with their motives for buying your products or services.  You provided some value to them that was significant enough to cause them to spend their money.  What was it?

An additional task this week is to create a list of the features versus the benefits of just one product or service you offer.  On a sheet of paper, make two columns–one column with the heading “FEATURE of This Product or Service” and the other column with the heading “BENEFIT of This Feature.”

Once you’ve completed this list, begin to include the language of your benefits in your messages to your marketing team, to prospects, and while networking.  It would be a good idea to eventually complete this list for each of your products or services because the more you can communicate the benefits of your products/services, the more people will see the value of what your business provides.

Come back next week to learn how to simplify your message and make it more specific and, in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in regard to any questions you may have about benefits vs. features and/or get your thoughts on what you may have learned or realized about the true benefits of your products/services through creating your features vs. benefits list.  Please share your questions/thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Can You Pinpoint the Benefits of Your Product or Service?

Sales training often teaches us that customers make buying decisions based on (1) their emotions (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”) and (2) the value the product or service brings to them.  Marketing specialists capitalize on customers’ emotion-based buying habits.  Customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features.  The features are simply the bare-bones facts–the elements or significant parts–of the product or service.  The benefits are its value to the customer–how it will solve their problems, eliminate their pain, and make life glorious.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To understand the difference between features and benefits, let’s think about a car:

Features of a car

  • V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof, significant interior legroom, heated seats, heated glass

Benefits of those features

  • V-6 engine–ability to pull onto the highway without hesitation (and to impress your friends)
  • Dual exhausts–higher fuel efficiency and more power (and it sounds groovy and also impresses your friends)
  • Front-wheel drive–more interior room because of the lack of a driveshaft tunnel
  • Sunroof–the open feel of a convertible with the safety and security of a sedan
  • Legroom–greater comfort while driving long distances and more room for your growing family
  • Heated seats–cozy motoring on frigid days and nights; greater back comfort on long-distance trips
  • Heated glass–the convenience of not having to scrape icy windows in the winter

The more perceived value a benefit offers, the higher it gets ranked in your decision to purchase.  Objectively, a sunroof is not a significant feature, but if it makes you feel a bit like a race car driver, perhaps that benefit raises its value for you.  Heated seats are nice too, but they might not rank high in value for to people who live in a warm climate and wouldn’t strongly influence their buying decision.  The benefits of dual exhausts, however, might have perceived value for all buyers–better fuel efficiency, more power, and a sound like your beloved but departed ’57 Chevy.

What does all this have to do with your referral marketing message?  Simply this:  Most businesspeople, without thinking about it, talk in terms of features.  As professional experts and salespeople, that’s what they’re most familiar with.  They’re not accustomed to looking at their products or services from a customer’s perspective.

In formulating the message you want your networking partners to convey, your challenge is to put yourself in the customer’s place.  What are the benefits of your product or service?  How will it make the customer’s life or business easier, more comfortable, more satisfying, more profitable?  How can you shorten and simplify your message so that others can communicate these benefits more clearly and surely?

Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between features and benefits, I hope you’ll come back next week to read the follow-up blog post I’ll be doing which will teach show you exactly how to zero in on the benefits of your business.  Until then, if you have any questions about features vs. benefits or any thoughts you’d like to share regarding this post, please leave a comment in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

The Power of Being Specific

In this video, I explain a great technique for getting your referral partners to really hone in on and start passing you more and more of the exact type of referrals that you ideally want. The technique is simply to focus on being as specific as possible.

In order to demonstrate just how powerful specificity can be, I take you through two 10-second exercises which clearly convey how results can be significantly greater when we take care to be specific. You’ll need a pen and a piece of paper to participate in the exercises so be sure to grab those two things before watching the video and please feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on this video and/or any effective strategies you may have which help you focus on specificity with members of your network.

Make a Good Living While Serving a Greater Good

All of us are in business to make a profit. But if that’s the primary driving force in business, we become mercenaries to that process.  I believe that I should serve a greater need than simply to make a profit. I believe that business can be honorable.  It can make a difference in individual lives as well as communities.

Small business is the engine that drives many of the economies around the world.  Small business doesn’t have the resources of large corporations.  However, if they network together – the sum of the whole becomes greater than the individual parts. Well-designed collaboration based on an effective system and strategy can lead to small business success.

However, in the final analysis, the true foundation for success rests in an organization’s culture.  In fact, I believe that culture eats strategy for breakfast.  An organization needs a sound strategy to succeed but, it needs a great culture to excel.  For me, that approach has been about creating core values around a culture of collaboration.

Core values establish culture. It’s never too late or too early to think about your core values in business and in life. Here are my core values:

  1. The Philosophy of Givers Gain®(What goes around comes around).
  2. Building Meaningful Relationships
  3. Lifelong Learning
  4. Traditions + Innovation
  5. Positive Attitude
  6. Accountability

I believe that it is possible to make a good living while serving a greater good. The core values I have tried to apply in my life and in my business have helped to create a culture of collaboration within the context of building a business. This approach is not only a great way to get business, I believe it is an even better way to do business.

Business can be honorable. It can be something that improves people’s lives as well as supports and helps local communities. It can do so, by not only helping to generate more business for one another, but by giving back to the community, mentoring others, immersing in a culture of shared learning, and by collaborating with others.

I have a big hairy audacious goal (a BHAG) for businesses around the world. I believe we can “Change the Way the World Does Business” and we can do that by incorporating core values into our business that support collaboration and positive meaningful relationships.  

We are coming up on the 30th anniversary for my company (BNI) and I believe that our focus on these core values, philosophy, and vision are responsible for our 30 years of consecutive growth. Through strong economies and serious recessions – my organization has grown year in and year out for 30 years without exception.  Few organizations can say that.   I think that is a testament to our approach to doing business.

Have you given thought to your organization’s core values? If so, share your company’s core values here. I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

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