Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Does Business Networking really work?

I was at a networking meeting yesterday evening and someone asked me if I thought business networking really worked. I said I was biased, but why had she asked. She explained that the opinion of another contact was that it didn't.

I asked which she thought was the more powerful, telling prospects about yourself or by having someone else that they trust tell them about you. She thought it was by having someone else talking about you....

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Strategic Partnerships

Building relationships with others who operate in the same market place as you makes perfect sense as part of your business networking strategy. In fact if you concentrate on those who offer complimentary services to yours then you can open many more opportunities.

I attended an exhibition of companies today that had formalised this arrangement in an alliance to help each other. Someone there told me a great story about a Marketing Consultant and a Sales Consultant who had met at an NRG Lunch. They had built a relationship and just won a £30,000 contract with a joint bid!

Monday, February 26, 2007

PR - An Ecademy Journey

Ecademy are using PR to promote themselves by promoting member success stories. See this link >>>>. One of the often overlooked benefits of business networking is the opportunity for mutual PR.

What do you really do?

My colleague, Martin Davies, delivered our '7 secrets of effective business networking' seminar in Dudley on Friday. One of the points we make is the importance of communicating what you do and who for from the listener's point of view and not yours.

One of the attendees said he had struggled for years to describe what he did at business networking events. As a result of the 7 Secrets Seminar the penny dropped and he understood how to describe what he does in terms of business benefit. Rather than saying “I am an insolvency practitioner” he changed it to “I specialise in helping small businesses who are struggling financially to recover their business”. A clear focus for the audience on his expertise and market.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Strategic Internet Marketing & Business Networking

Internet Psychologist, Graham Jones, delivered a great seminar before the NRG Networking Lunch at London Charing Cross on Internet Marketing. In an excellent handout he gave some great advice about online marketing. Part of the strategy he recommends is getting other people talking about you, rather like our strategy for businesss networking. In fact he says:

"Successful companies succeed by word of mouth. That should be central to your Internet Marketing Strategy."

You can contact Graham at this link>>>> if you would like a copy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another great example of Advocacy

At a Networking Meeting on Monday one of the attendees was scheduled to do a one minute to the whole group. The week before he had solved an IT problem for another member of the group and she offered to do the one minute for him. She delivered a great endorsement as an advocate of his service.

Much more powerful than him doing it himself!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Growing your business through the power of metaphor

In some recent seminars at NRG Andrea Moffatt has explored the internal and external challenges of growing your business. She specialises in doing that through a medium that is at once so familiar that you don’t even recognise it and may be in danger of dismissing it. It’s the power of story and storytelling.

I was reminded of this at the launch in the UK last night of Roger Hamilton's book, Wink. On the surface the book is a simple story about a 9 year old boy meeting a number of people on a journey. The real story is in the conversations that he engages in that reveal the wealth generation strategies of the characters. Each of the characters has a different profile from Roger's Wealth Dynamics profiling system.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Power of Advocacy

At NRG Business Networking Events a member gets a 10 minute slot after lunch to present themselves or their business. At the London Selfridge NRG Event last week the scheduled 10 minute presenter, Jon Davey, of Business in Berkshire was unable to attend (sensibly deciding that his heavy cold should keep him away).

In his place NRG member, Richard White, delivered his endorsement of Jon's business from his own experience. A demonstration of advocacy in action and how a message from a 3rd party perspective can be more powerful than your own.

Building your Reputation

You know that most people you meet at Business Networking will not be your customers so it follows that Networking for Advocates rather than customers is a much more effective strategy. One aspect of this strategy is building relationships. Another is finding ways of building your reputation as an expert or leader in your field.

Chris Bose is a great exponent of sharing his knowledge freely when networking as a way of building his reputation. He sometimes does this by speaking at seminars during NRG Business Networking Events. He told me today that he had just received a valuable enquiry via someone who had seen him speak at a seminar a few months ago.

How are you demonstrating your expertise to your Network?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A great example of follow up

On Monday I posted about the importance of building relationships. The blog was about an unqualified referral I had just made. The person I referred just contacted me to say thank you and that his company had started an initial 3 month contract. A great example of follow up and of advocacy and successful business networking in action.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Returns from Networking

I posted this reply to another excellent thread from Rory Murray at Ecademy.

My first proper job was as a salesman. I remember being uncomfortable with the training process we went through that suggested selling was a numbers game and the number of presentations you made on the benefits the product was the most important factor in driving results. There was also the notion that some people were 'natural salespeople' and could sell anything to anyone. I won't quote some of the derogatory phrases used to illustrate this.

I pretty soon worked out that to get on I had to be one of the top performers. The conventional wisdom was that the top salespeople were the ones promoted.

My approach was to get to know people and find out about their real needs. The retailers I dealt with were not interested in the product I had. They were interested in the customers that they served. They were interested in the shelves and display areas being full of appropriate products that sold well and generated more profit per square foot. They were interested in the person that took the time to understand their business and help them become better at servicing their customers. They were interested in the person that took the time to recommend things and put them in touch with others of a like minded disposition. They were interested in the person that developed Relationships and the Return they provided was in ever increasing sales, support, introductions and some long lasting friendships. Some things that you can quantify and some that you can't.

There may be people wondering why they are getting no return for the time they are investing. Maybe some need to ask what they are spending their time doing. If they are not helping others meet their needs and also building their own reputation in the provision of whatever service it is they are providing then a review of their activity may be in order.

Preparing your Introduction

At business networking events I meet a lot of people who seem totally unprepared for the "So what do you do" question. Why not practise a short, helpful introduction for yourself. You will know when you have got it right when the person you are talking to says: 'How do you do that then?' There are only a few simple ingredients to a good introduction.

Something like "We help [target market] to [benefit]. For example, 'We help consultants double the value of their sales'. The trick is to make it interesting. So instead of telling people that you are an HR consultant, you might say: 'We help hotels retain their key staff.'

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ROR and the importance of Reputation

There's a good debate on Ecademy stimulated by a thread from Rory Murray on the subject of Return on Relationships and the importance of Reputation. It's at this link>>>>.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The importance of building relationships

I got a call this morning from someone who needed IT support help quickly in the local area. Their IT Manager was unavailable unexpectedly.

I've met quite a few people who would probably be ok, but at the forefront of my mind was the person that had put the time in.

We'd met & talked a few times. I'd had first hand experience of his help. He'd invested his time in building the relationship. The result - an unqualified referral.

Results from Business Networking can take time, but the rewards are there if you put the effort in.

Friday, February 9, 2007

How to become more memorable

A colleague of mine, Martin Davies, wrote this useful article in a recent edition of the NRG ezine, Synergy:

Do you find it difficult to get business referrals? Are you finding networking just not paying dividends?.

It's frustrating when this happens, but the problem may lie with you. It may be, for example, that your introduction isn't memorable and just doesn't register with people.

The most effective networkers are highly memorable. They make it easy to remember and repeat what they do and what makes them different.

Here are four things to consider when preparing your introduction. Aim to make this no more than 30 seconds. And try to make your message as graphic as if you were burning it permanently into people's brains with a branding iron.

Describe what you do in benefit terms that mean something

For example, if you are an IFA you might say: 'I help people build long-term wealth.' Or if you offer computer support you might say: 'We stop staff surfing the net on company time.' If you write databases you might say: 'We help people double the value of their data.'

What is your target market?

Find yourself a niche market. Avoid being too general - it's harder for people to remember. Our IFA might say: 'One of our target markets is independent professionals in their late 40s/early 50s.'

The computer support expert might say: 'Our target market is businesses employing 10-50 people around Cheltenham.' The result is that your audience will instinctively start to filter through their contacts to see if they know anyone who fits the bill.

What is their business pain?

The trick here is to pose a question or statement that your audience might hear from one of their contacts (or even have themselves). For example: 'I'm looking for people who are worried about their pension and don't know what to do.'

This sentence must have a 'pain' verb in it - in this case 'worried'.

Or: 'I'm looking for business owners who want to raise productivity. For example, if a dozen employees surf the 'net for an hour a day on company time, that's a whole year of lost production. Ouch!'

Experiment with this. For example, in the above scenario, ten employees amounts to 291 lost days, but that's not really a memorable figure. On the other hand 'a dozen' and 'a year' will stick.

How do you fix this pain?

You then say 'what we do is ......' Keep it to one sentence and focus on outcomes. For example: 'What we do is talk to them and build a plan that makes their money work for them properly.'

The trick here is to keep your introduction really simple and short but starting to build in what makes you different.

A successful introduction is short, memorable and begs the question: 'How do you do that then?'

Just one final point - practice!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Great quote from Dale Carnegie

I was reminded of this quote when exchanging messages with a Dale Carnegie trainer earlier today:

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you"

A big lesson here for networking. Show a genuine interest in other people. Learn to ask open questions ('how', 'why' 'who' and 'when' questions), listen attentively and make links to other people that you know.

People love to talk about their favourite subject - themselves! So, listen more than talk - we were given two ears and one mouth!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The importance of follow up

I was reminded today of an important rule in networking - always follow up contacts. I was talking with someone who had attended a lot of events recently, but not set aside time to follow up.

When you have taken the trouble to attend and meet people at an event put time in your diary for the follow up. It only need be a simple e-mail confirming where you met and what action, if any, was agreed. That could be the first steps in building that all important relationship.

If you have trouble remembering then maybe write yourself a reminder on their business card.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

International Networking Week.

An interesting initiative from Ivan Misner & BNI started this week - International Networking Week. The purpose of the week (from is:

"to raise the profile of networking in the wider community, recognising it as an essential tool for success in today’s business climate."

I went to a BNI organised 'Big Breakfast' in Bristol this morning and was made to feel very welcome. It was great to see the education slot focus on encouraging people to participate in a number of different networks. At NRG we stress the importance of networks setting an example and being inclusive and networking with other networks.

I look forward to this becoming an important event in the business calendar.

Monday, February 5, 2007

So what do you do then?

For many people this is the hardest question when they attend a networking event or talk to someone in business?

They know it's going to be asked so what do they do when someone asks the inevitable?

It can often have them babbling incoherently or rambling on and on in an increasingly incomprehensible manner.

Don't be like the character Dr Calvin played by Bridget Moynahan in the film, "I, Robot" when Detective Spooner ( played by Will Smith) asks her:

“What do you do?”

She replies "My general fields are advanced robotics and psychiatry although I specialise in hardware to wetware interfaces in an effort to advance our anti-amorphisation project.”

Better to have the clarity she expresses when Spooner asks again, “So what exactly do you do?" and she replies:

“I make the robots seem more human.”

So, if you know anyone who struggles & dreads those words, "so what is it that you do?" then suggest they think in advance about:

• Their target market
• What problems people in the market have that they can help with
• What they do to help relieve the pain that problem brings
• What positive outcome they leave them with

Friday, February 2, 2007

Is Networking working for you?

If networking isn't working well for you and your business then you might want to think about the following questions:

1. Is your business relationship or transaction focused?
2. How many networking contacts do you make?
3. How many 121s do you have?
4. What expertise and support do you give to your network?
5. How many networking contacts become your advocates?

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