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Picture the Perfect Customer

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“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” ~~Albert Einstein


Networking involves mining relationships, sharing resources, and working together. The more clearly you define your target the easier it is for the other person to know quickly if they can help or not. Additionally, you can align everything you do to support that target market with your proficiency—becoming the subject matter expert for this specific group.


Defining your perfect customer clearly is one of the key elements of success. This is entirely counter-intuitive, though, and most people miss the mark because of that. For example, your product or service can often help a wide variety of people. Let’s call this vast population “anybody.” Therefore, we mistakenly think that it will be easier for our business partners to just bring us “anybody.” There are two major problems with this.


The first is that we are often brought the wrong prospects. Either they don’t qualify, are not the decision-maker, we don’t understand their needs well enough to align our benefits with their needs, etc. When “anybody” shows up on our doorstep, it is no better than starting from scratch and that is frustrating for us, for our partner, and for the prospect. Everyone has heightened expectations and the results are disappointing.


The second problem is that we are often brought no prospects when asking for “anybody.” This happens for two primary reasons. For those people motivated to bring us what we ask for (see the prior paragraph) they give up as we seem ungrateful or incompetent. For those that are less motivated (trust me, this is a bigger population) our request is out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind. If any opportunity ever luckily clicks we wind up back in the same briar patch of the previous paragraph.


There is also a hidden problem because when we find “anybody” in our own process, we are equipped with the knowledge to qualify them and build the relationship at the same time. This fools us to believe that all our networking partners can and will do the same.


This area is one of the biggest causes of networking failure. Mastery here will make a huge difference in your success.


It is far more effective to clearly define the target as precisely as possible. Let me give an example that may illustrate this better.


Imagine you have a credit card processing company and your service handles many small-to-medium sized transactions quickly and accurately. You offer and support loyalty memberships, can calculate discounts on-the-fly, and provide durable, reliable equipment. Knowing this, you will likely find that restaurants are your favorite customers.


Define that market more completely. You are looking to meet more owners of non-chain restaurants with the average meal price under twelve dollars for lunch or breakfast. These businesses have (or want) an active to-go trade and have more than twenty and less than fifty tables, located in Wake County.

It is relatively easy for your business partners to identify these businesses. They may frequent them occasionally or may be very close friends with the owner. You can strategize with each opportunity completely and you can become an expert in the food service industry. Will you service dry cleaners and auto repair shops, as well? Of course, but leverage your networking community by focusing their efforts on restaurant introductions.


You will find in time that these restaurant owners need more services than you can provide—such as staffing, furniture, uniforms, pest control, menu printing, signage, etc. When you build strategic alliances with these companies the opportunities expand tremendously.


It all starts with this specific exercise.


Here are ten attributes for business-to-consumer and business-to-business markets. Add more and fill in the elements as fully as possible.


For business-to-business consider things like Public or Private, Profit or Non-Profit, Industry, Specialty or Type of Business, Size (Revenue,) Size (Employees,) Location, Years in Business, Department, and Title.


For business-to-consumer consider Gender, Age, Marital status, Home Owner or Renter, Children/no children, Working or retired, Household income, Location, Education, and Family structure, among others.


Remember, this exercise is counter-intuitive and you will be tempted to skip or short change this. Please resist that temptation and paint a vivid picture of your perfect customer.


© 2019 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

January 20, 2019 at 7:54 am

Take Time, make time

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“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” ~~Jim Rohn


Brainstorming is always a valuable exercise in planning. Go ahead and brainstorm different ways you can grow your business. Challenge yourself to think of twenty different methods you could use this year. Don’t limit yourself to things you actually do…think out of that box a little. Be creative. It’s only brainstorming.


Stop reading until the list is complete and you have at least twenty ways listed.






Once you have a list, each entry usually falls into one of four different types. Each has its place and they all have strengths and weaknesses.

The main differentiating points involve whether an activity is primarily active or passive and whether an investment is largely time or money.

We won’t examine each area deeply as they are disciplines principally beyond the scope of this exercise.

At the far end of passive activity with money invested is advertising. Many of the items on your list probably fall into this category with radio, television, Internet, billboards, signs, promotional items, etc. Once the message is planned and content developed the lion’s share of involvement is based on budgetary considerations.

Another passive activity—this one with relatively lower dollar investment—is Public Relations. Many businesses never even consider this or have dedicated resources to apply, yet publicity can be a valuable factor. Social Media somewhat straddles the area between Advertising and Public Relations. It is more active than either and relatively low-cost, as well.

In the high activity low cost arena is cold calling. Some excel at this and some businesses thrive on this model. Most people, however, do not like engaging in or being approached in this manner.

Another high activity low cost entry is networking. That is actually the focus of my business, my marketing efforts, and this post. One of the things I like best about networking is that it reduces (and may over time eliminate) the need for most of the other areas. If you rely heaviest on networking, the other areas simply support the effort. Once again, Social Media fits neatly with networking, as well.

One thing to consider, though, is that we are taking about net-work. It does require effort and that takes time. A frequently asked question is, “How much time should I apply to networking?” Naturally that depends on your specific requirements. Studies recommend seven to ten hours per week and my experience bears that out.

I have no doubt that you are already busy and cannot conceive of carving out a work day per week. Think back to last week’s exercise and look at the areas you will increase ten-percent or so. Setting the time aside makes this increase possible. Block out your time on the calendar now. If you attend regular networking events consider blocking some time just before or just after for one-to-one meetings. Carve some time out two or three days earlier for invitations and introductions and one or two days after for follow-up. Look ahead at local training events. Find some that interest you and leverage them by inviting people you want to help or want to get to know better, as well.

In time, you will begin to do networking more naturally and more often. Start by setting time aside, though, to develop the skills. Furthermore, you will have a lot of fun (and better results) doing networking when you have a plan.


© 2019 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

January 13, 2019 at 9:18 am

How to double your networking results this year

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“For every disciplined effort there is a multiple reward.”

~~Jim Rohn

Ask any financial planner about compound interest and they will share the concept that small improvements in multiple areas add up to big results. For example, a ten percent return per year will double the value in roughly six years. The same is very true of your networking efforts. Rather than wait six years, though, we will select six areas that work together, and drive the same results in a single year.

Results follow activities and activities can be measured in both quantity and quality. True in all aspects of life, the same formula applies neatly to networking, as well. If you can enhance six different areas by ten percent your results will improve by 195%, which is nearly double. If you can improve five areas by 15% or four areas by 20% you will also more than double the results.

Therefore, if you would like to achieve twice the results over last year from networking, take the critical activities you tracked last year and increase all of them by a small amount.

If you did not track activities last year then use this planning period to decide which activities are valuable to you and define a tracking method you can and will actually use.

I will give you some ideas—although this is not a comprehensive list.

Take networking events. You can evaluate them from both a quantity and quality standpoint. Under quantity, ask “How many did I attend last year?” If you attended 20 add another two for a 10% increase, three for 15%, etc.

To consider networking events from a quality perspective, consider how many potential business partners and prospects attend. If you are networking with the people that can be mutually beneficial, this is higher quality. Turn them into numbers to evaluate ten-percent, fifteen-percent improvements.

The same thought process can include:

  • Introductions made: (quantity and quality)
  • visitors invited: (quantity and quality)
  • one-to-one meetings: (quantity and quality)
  • referrals given: (quantity and quality)
  • referrals received: (quantity and quality)
  • training completed: (quantity and quality)

A key trait for successful networkers is follow-up. Quantity may relate to timeliness and frequency while completeness (how thoroughly did the follow-up take place at each event) could evaluate quality.

There is a long list of activities you can both control and quantify—although you only need to choose a few. In order to improve be certain to capture a baseline, plan the increase, and track activities against that plan.

Taking this a step further you can see that they all work together. If you attend more networking events and they are of better quality and you make more introductions and follow-up more effectively the compound results will accrue—and that is exactly what you want.

I have broken some areas out for illustrative purposes and attached that. Take the attachment, convert the data into a spreadsheet for calculations, and plug your 2018 results in to see just how possible it is for you this year.

One last tip: If you know how many referrals you want to receive each month a very simple shortcut is to commit to give that many or more. Higher quantity and higher quality will also impact those you receive.

Let this be the start of a very prosperous year.

© 2019 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

January 6, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Lifelong Learning

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“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” ~~Albert Einstein

We started to consider the skills and techniques of doubling the results of your networking efforts on the first Sunday morning in January and have continued every week throughout the year. Thank you for staying the course. I certainly hope you have found some value in the fifty-two sessions presented.

Although networking is the recognized leader in building business relationships that work, there is no ready college course on the material. Hopefully, this information provides some illumination. Hopefully, too, you have applied these principals and enjoyed twice the results this year than you saw last year. You can do the same again in 2016 by following the same principals again. One of the nice benefits of having completed every topic is that now you can now access all of the information at your own pace, rather than an arbitrary weekly rhythm.

Go back and revisit them all—in order—and speed through the areas that you are already proficient at and take your time in the soft spots. Set your goals for the year (or shorter time frame) and set measurable targets.

Life is a continuous opportunity for further learning, so consider committing to continuous education. There are many resources readily available and I present a short list of candidates for your consideration.

Endless Referrals Bob Burg

The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret Ivan Misner and Virginia Devine

How to Work a Room Susan RoAnne

Networking for Success Robyn Henderson

The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donovan

Unlimited Referrals Bill Cates

Let’s Connect Jan Vermeiren

Business by Referral Ivan Misner and Robert Davis

Build Your Well Before You Are Thirsty Harvey McKay

Building the Ultimate Network various contributors

Your action this week is to set your plans in motion for next year. Start by reviewing each entry and define a method to polish the existing skills and augment the others. Give yourself the gift of continuous learning and have a very Happy Holiday Season.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.


Written by bniguy

December 24, 2017 at 9:50 am

Posted in HowTo, training

Your Advisory Board

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“To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.” ~~Steve Jobs RIP 10/5/11

You may have heard that business owners wear many hats. This is very true. It requires a lot of different skills and activities to keep an enterprise humming and thriving. We all bring various competencies to the equation—both business-related and personal. For example, one person may be a good marketer, excellent father, decent driver, and terrible golfer. They can’t sing but write well. This composite individual has strengths and weaknesses. In your business (as well as in personal relationships) weaknesses can be crippling and even fatal. Understanding that, you can appreciate the value of an advisory board.

This is a group of peers—fellow-business owners—that gather regularly and discuss pertinent issues. They bring expertise and experience into areas you are lacking and you can offer the same to them. Theoretically, seventy-percent of all business is the same while most of us only think of the thirty-percent that differentiates them. You would hardly think of an auto repair business, financial planner’s office, and chiropractor have much in common but they all deal with finding new customers, servicing accounts, billing, tax preparation, hiring, insurance, website selection, and countless other similar details. When someone has already mastered the process of accepting credit cards, for example, the other members can benefit from that knowledge.

In some cases you can start your own group. In others you can join an existing one. A good middle ground is a mastermind group. These are similar to business networking groups except that the focus is on sharing ideas rather than mining for referrals.

The best advisory boards will challenge your pre-conceived ideas and highlight soft areas. They can be uncomfortable yet invaluable. Some are very hands-on while others are more visionary and big-picture-centric. Some meet monthly and some meet quarterly. Some meet in person and others in more virtual settings.

Ivan Misner in The 29% Solution quotes business strategist Geri Stengel regarding ten effective tips for creating an advisory board, summarized below:

  1. What is the objective of your board? Will this be an industry-specific group or more generalized? Will it be a hybrid (business-to-business or homeowner-centric, for example?) Will it be regional, national, or larger? Will it include customers?
  2. How do you choose the right people? Understanding the purpose is one thing. Further defining the level of expertise, business size and maturity, etc., is another matter, as well. Whatever metric you define, be certain to consider “people skills” as well. Look for willingness to share, problem-solving ability, communication proficiency, and so on. Some boards love to recruit celebrities and a big name adds some allure while also opening the door for powerful introductions but don’t just gravitate to that if it is not a fit in the other areas, as well.
  3. What are your expectations? Be clear about time commitments, responsibilities, desired results, and all the rest. The clearer you are about the strengths and weaknesses of your current board make-up, the surer you will find the right person for the right reason that will stay. If your board will consider private matters have a confidentiality agreement prepared.
  4. What is the compensation? Certainly involvement has its own rewards. Decide on food, expenses, stock options, and cash payments, if any.
  5. How will you maximize the experience? Carefully consider the logistics and prepare agendas ahead of time. If prior knowledge of a topic is needed, deliver that ahead of time. End every session with a recap of the action plans and facilitate the process. Ideally, recap each meeting for all attendees (perhaps all members.)
  6. Honesty is the best policy. As mentioned above a strong advisory board will be challenging. Every member should share their own mistakes, especially in the early formative sessions. This builds rapport and provides a framework for trust. Honesty may put you in an uncomfortable situation as the probing questions uncover what you don’t know, never considered, blind spots, and so forth. Keep the conversations frank without personal attacks.
  7. How will you deal with the time/distance gaps? Meeting frequently drives momentum yet can burn members out. Meeting less often can lead to drift. Defining these expectations and finding suitable methods of between meeting communication is important. Emails, wikis, listserves, shared websites, and so on provide useful ways to move ideas across erratic schedules. Some members will access this late at night, for example. It is also useful to assign sub-committees who meet on specific topics at their own schedules and report results at the regular sessions.
  8. Will you respect the board recommendations? Everyone’s time is important. Do not monopolize the floor, for example. Conversely, when something needs to be said—do so. Listen to the advice given and consider your own actions. You will ultimately live with any decision, so there is no need to rush. That said, respect the advice, share your decision, and share the results.
  9. How will you keep board members informed? You may in time find the advice was incorrect and now will be talking about how to repair and restore. You may find that new areas of opportunity or concern have cropped up. You may simply find that things are moving according to plan. Briefly updating your advisory board is important.
  10. How will you deal with problem members? Set a structure up that enables you to deal with the inevitable issues that arise. Be certain to consider legal challenges, as well.

Who might you want to seek out for an advisory board? Here are some areas to consider:

  • People in your profession. This includes current professionals as well as prior specialists. There are benefits from both areas. Active experts have current technology, contacts, regulatory knowledge, and more. Former wizards bring different depth, too.
  • Outside observers. These can include regulators, authors, and business consultants.
  • Members of similar or related professional organizations like trade group people.

This is a large, significant area and sets the tone for your 2018 focus. Your action this week is to start planning your advisory board. I am including a link to Geri Stengel’s website here as an idea factory. Start fleshing out the answers to the ten questions above and solicit feedback from those you respect.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

December 17, 2017 at 6:30 am

Make a Difference

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“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ~~John C. Crosby

Mentors provide leadership, guidance, and support. Their interest in our success may be unexpected or actively sought. It may be provided with patient step-by-step counseling or delivered in more fleeting, sometimes cryptic teaching moments. No matter the method it is offered in a sincere desire to help and received—when fully understood—gratefully.

Mentorship embodies the “Giver’s Gain” philosophy.

By serving as a mentor you have the chance to make a significant difference in someone else’s life. Less apparent is that a mentor has a golden opportunity to sharpen their own skills. In teaching we learn.

Think of your mentors. They took some time to help and made a difference. What feelings do you have for them? Gratitude is the most compelling emotion. If they called and asked for some help you would set other things aside and give this effort the attention it so fittingly deserves.

We have been together for fifty weeks and it is time to begin paying it forward to others while deepening your personal understanding, as well.

Characteristics of a Good Mentor

All successful business people do not necessarily make effective mentors; certain individuals are more effective in the role of developing others. Whether or not an individual is suited to the role of mentor may depend on his or her own stage of development and experience. For example, a fairly successful individual may have had a specific, or limited, background and may not have enough general experience to offer. Prior to entering into a mentoring relationship, the protégée should assume the responsibility of assessing the mentor’s potential effectiveness.

The qualities which are essential in an effective mentor include:

  • DESIRE TO HELP Individuals who are interested in and willing to help others.
  • HAVE HAD POSITIVE EXPERIENCES Individuals who have had positive formal or informal experiences with a mentor tend to be good mentors themselves.
  • GOOD REPUTATION FOR DEVELOPING OTHERS Experienced people who have a good reputation for helping others develop their skills.
  • TIME & ENERGY People who have the time and mental energy to devote to the relationship.
  • UP-TO-DATE KNOWLEDGE Individuals who have maintained current, up-to-date technological knowledge and/or skills.
  • LEARNING ATTITUDE Individuals who are still willing and able to learn and who see the potential benefits of a mentoring relationship.
  • DEMONSTRATED EFFECTIVE MANAGERIAL (MENTORING) SKILLS Individuals who have demonstrated effective coaching, counseling, facilitating and networking skills.

Your action step this week is to assess your own mentoring potential and seek suitable candidates that deserve your attention. In some cases you may need to break the ice and inform these candidates of your intention and availability.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

December 10, 2017 at 9:04 pm

Hub Firm

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“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” ~~Jack Welch

Just as no man is an island, no (or almost no) business transaction takes place in a vacuum. There is usually a preceding and following event (or three.) In the book The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret the author, Ivan Misner, refers to the concept of a hub firm at the center of these events.

Hub firms take time to develop and rely heavily on trust and competence. In the hub firm model, one company has the relationship with the client and coordinates business across other companies in order to assist the client with those other transactions.

Hub firms cover a wide-range of situations—towing to a repair shop, power-washing before painting, and cleaning up after construction are a few everyday examples. These are simple partnership arrangements while the true hub firm is more complex. Let me give you two examples of these.

Consider the Financial Planner who works with a variety of clients. Some of these are people who are starting a new business. A typical Financial Planner might recommend that the client find some resources and may have a few loose recommendations. The savvy Financial Planner, however, has already aligned herself with a CPA, a business attorney, and a business banker, for example. These professionals can all meet the client at once and map out a cohesive startup strategy. Certainly, any member of the team can drive the hub relationship for their clients, as well. This team approach provides competitive advantage and can save the client time and (usually) money, as well. At the right point in the process they can introduce web designers, graphic designers, advertising specialists, and so on.

A second example has to do with a hub firm Realtor. In this scenario, we have a home-owner who is listing their house. The Realtor can mobilize a carpet cleaner, moving and storage company, and interior designer as follows. The moving and storage company gets “clutter” and bulky items out of the home and into storage. The carpet cleaner freshens up the floors and the painter does the same for the walls.  The landscaper improves curb appeal and the interior designer stages the home for quicker sale. The Realtor coordinates these efforts and can utilize these pros, as needed.

Both of these identify the power of the hub firm model. Not every client requires all the members of the team. The hub firm “quarterbacks” those efforts. Building a hub team takes time and commitment. These trusted partners must maintain the integrity of the whole team with each project.

Your action step this week is to begin to build your hub team. Consider some of your best clients and what needs they have and who you know that can help. In some cases you will need to coordinate existing relationships. In some cases you will need to replace existing relationships. In still others you will need to establish and develop new relationships. The effort is well-worth the trouble.


© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.


Written by bniguy

December 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm