Cave Dweller Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Making Word-of-Mouth Marketing Work for You

Word-of-mouth marketing is often considered one of the oldest and most powerful forms of advertising. In fact, most business people understand that it works–they just don’t know how it works.

If you want to be successful at developing word-of-mouth for your business, you should be as organized and thoughtful about it as you are about other types of advertising and marketing. In fact, if you take this approach, eventually, you can get most of your business exclusively through word-of-mouth! The key to creating a successful word-of-mouth program lies in developing a formal plan for systematically meeting people and cultivating relationships with them. Here are ten ways for you to get your own word-of-mouth marketing program off the ground.

Avoid being a cave dweller.

Get out and meet people. Start by setting a goal for the number of appointments you’ll establish with people you wish to develop networking relationships with every week. Social capital works for everybody, not just people who set out purposefully to become networkers.

Ask for the referral.

There are specific techniques you can learn and develop that will help you hone your ability to ask for the referrals you want. One such technique is to ask “Who do you know who…?” You would then list several types of people you can help, such as someone who is new to the area, someone recently married or someone who has just started a business.

Join three networking groups.

Consciously select at least three different business or networking groups to join in the next three months. These groups might include chambers of commerce, community service groups and trade associations. When joining various organizations, make sure you select a well-rounded mix of business groups in which to participate. Try to avoid being in more than one group per category (i.e., two chambers of commerce), as this will divide your loyalties and put you in a position where you’ll be making promises to too many people.

Create referral incentives.

Develop a creative incentive to encourage people to send referrals your way. A music store owner, for instance, sends music tickets to people who refer business to him. Another example is the chiropractor who posts thank-yous on a bulletin board in his waiting area to all his patients who referred patients to him the previous month.

Learn, learn, learn for lifelong learning.

Spend time developing your networking skills. Read books and articles on networking, listen to tapes, and talk to people who network well. Networking is an acquired skill.

Act like a host.

When attending a business mixer, act like a host, not a guest. You are wasting your time at mixers if you stand around visiting with coworkers or others you already know rather than meeting new contacts and introducing them around. These events offer a great way to increase your visibility! If appropriate, ask to be the ambassador or visitor host in the organizations to which you belong. As such, it will be your official duty to meet people and introduce them to others.

Create an elevator pitch.

Invest time in developing a brief message about your business that explains what you do. What would you say? I want you to keep in mind that this is not a sales pitch; it is a creative and succinct way to generate interest in the listener. When you introduce yourself to others, use your elevator pitch. Chances are, this will help them remember you and what you do. Keeping these seven rules in mind when you create an elevator pitch will set you apart from the crowd.

Take notes and follow up.

When you meet someone and exchange cards, take a few moments to flip the card over and jot down some information about them or their business that will help you remember them and follow up with them later. This is a very simple, yet powerful, way to make a great first impression that can be developed into a mutually beneficial networking partnership. When you follow up, I recommend that you offer opportunities, whether a simple piece of information, a special contact, or a qualified business referral.

Talk less and listen more.

Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them accordingly. Our success in networking depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship.

Collaborate and help others.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Helping people shows that you care. Connect with people outside of business meetings whenever possible. Drop notes, letters and articles that might be of interest to them in the mail. Call to check in with them or invite them to events you may be attending that might be of interest.

You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own sphere. By implementing the tactics above, you will receive benefits from that network. Maximize your opportunities to cultivate networking relationships with others, and you will see just how effective word-of-mouth marketing can be!

Home-based Business

Home-based Business Networking

I’m often asked these days about how to network and build a referral business as a home-based business owner. During the eight years I worked from home (The photo is the home I started BNI in), I learned a great deal about the pros and cons of working from home and how it related to my networking efforts. Although most of the networking techniques that work for any business work for most home-based businesses, there are at least two important issues that I think apply to a home-based business more than any other.

Promoting My Home-based Business

My opinion in this area rubs some home-based business owners the wrong way, but I feel strongly about it: When networking, I don’t recommend you share that you run a home-based business. I believe telling people you meet in networking environments that you “work from home” has either a neutral or a negative impact because it either doesn’t matter to them, or they’re not impressed that you operate your business out of your house.

When I worked from home, I rarely, if ever, met anyone who said, “Oh, fantastic, you work from home–I must do business with you!” Working from home was just not something that I found made people “want” to do business with me. Therefore, why should it be emphasized when meeting people through networking?

Often, when I attend a networking function, I see someone stand, say what they do, how people can refer them and then add at the end that he or she runs a home-based business. I believe that bit of information will generally have no impact or a negative impact on what people think of your potential abilities–it almost never has a positive impact on people wanting to do business with you.

The Cave-Dweller Syndrome.

I find that many home-based business owners seriously suffer from Cave-Dweller Syndrome. Home-based business owners who want to build your business through word of mouth, you have to be visible and active in the community by participating in various networking groups and/or professional associations that will get you out of your cave. These kinds of groups include Casual Contact Networks (like your local chamber of commerce), Business Development Networks (like my own BNI), professional organizations (almost all professions have one), and service clubs (like the Rotary or Lions Clubs).

Look for other ways to be very visible in your circle of influence. For example, be active in your child’s school PTA or your church. Keep your eye open for opportunities to be involved in groups of people who come together for a common cause.

The bottom line is, networking doesn’t change too much whether your business is based from home or a corporate location. The dynamics of developing a strong word-of-mouth-based business transcend your business location. The caveat for the home-based business owner is that you’ll have to be even more diligent and focused on finding those networking opportunities.

 

Are You a ‘Cave Dweller’?

The concept of being a cave dweller stems from the idea that we wake up in the morning in a large cave with a big screen TV, we go out to our garage, get into a little cave with four wheels, we drive to our other big cave with computers, stay there all day, get back into the little cave, drive right back to the large cave, and we don’t get out and connect with people.

In this video, filmed at a recent Referral Institute® Conference, my good friend Mike Macedonio explains the ‘Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet’ which you can use to make an hourly break down of your day in order to determine whether you’re spending too much time cooped up at home or in the office.  Mike recently filled out the sheet and his results gave him the eye-opening realization that even as a referral marketing expert, he was still falling into the trap of being a cave dweller!

So, watch the video, make your own Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet, and find out whether or not you’re taking enough time out in the world to meet others, make real connections, and make a conscious effort to grow your business.  I’d love to hear your results so please come back and share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

In this video,

Knowledge Networking vs. Referral Networking

Most people are involved in at least two types of formal networking groups.  The first is intraprofessional networking, or “Knowledge Networking,” as Megatrends author John Naisbitt calls it.  Knowledge Networks foster self-help, information exchange, improved productivity and work life, and shared resources, according to Naisbitt, who cited networking as one of the ten megatrends impacting our society.

The second type of networking is interprofessional networking: multidisciplinary professionals and occupational types who network to increase each other’s business.  In fact, the primary purpose of most interprofessional networking groups is to increase one another’s business through referrals.

In good interprofessional networking, participants get either the majority of their business or their best business through referrals.  Organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees, and BNI® are typical groups in this category.  Different groups offer different strengths and weaknesses in helping to generate word-of-mouth business and it’s important to look closely at the makeup and structure of the various organizations that you might join before selecting those that best fit your needs.

If you haven’t had much success in business organizations in the past, don’t let that get in the way of doing what needs to be done to build your business through word of mouth today.  The best way to begin the process of building a referral-based business is in a group or groups of other business professionals.  The only alternative is to meet one person at a time, which inevitably means you’re going to be working harder, not smarter.

The only people who are going to make referrals for you consistently are people who know you and trust you: your friends, associates, customers, patients, clients, peers, and family members.  Strangers are not going to consistently give you business.  You need to start spending time with the right people in structured professional environments.

If you’re interested in building your business through referral networking, here are four tips to help you do it efficiently:

  • Join several different types of networking groups and diversify your word-of-mouth activities.
  • Develop your company into a Hub Firm, a firm that other companies rely on to coordinate efforts in providing effective services.
  • Don’t be a cave dweller.  Get out and meet other business professionals in the myriad of business organizations which exist for that purpose.
  • The only people who are going to make referrals for you consistently are people who know you and trust you.  You need to start spending time with the right people in structured professional environments.

Do you have any additional tips or tactics which you’ve found particularly effective in building a referral-based business?  What has worked best for you?  I would love to hear your insights so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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