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Archive for March 2011

It’s a Wired, Wired World

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“Anyone can use these sites – companies and colleges, teachers and students, young and old all make use of networking sites to connect with people electronically to share pictures, information, course work, and common interests.” ~~ Mike Fitzpatrick

So far, all of our focus has been on face-to-face (or at least person-to-person) networking. By now you have a few strategies to expand and deepen your contact database and have, ideally, started to see some results. This week we will venture beyond the confines of our neighborhoods and start to network with the world at large.
As of today (March 27, 2011) there are at least 13 virtual communities with more than 100 million active users.  These include Tencent QQ and Facebook (>600 million,) Habbo, Qzone, and Twitter (nearly or over 200 million,) Gmail, Vkontakte, Orkut, Windows Live Spaces, Bebo, MySpace, Badoo, and Sina Weibo.

Facebook, for example, was launched in February 2004 and in the past seven years has become synonymous with the term “social media.” If you are in business the Internet, especially via social media, provides a wide audience 24 hour each day, 7 days each week, and 365 days every year. Wide open.

Like any offline community, however, there are rules and norms that enhance your ability and you will move through three distinct levels of participation.

The first level is Visibility. This can be daunting against a population of 600 million people. Do you think they were busily engaged before you registered and created your online presence? Do you think they will remain that way whether or not you are member 627,841,416 or not? Absolutely. Your first challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to gain visibility. You do this by being active. In simple terms activity is measured by posts added. If you have some ideas to share then please do. Start with what you know. You can quickly become a subject matter expert and writing a regular blog is a very good way to do that. WordPress has some very complete tools for doing this, although there are many more.

The key to Visibility is recency and frequency. Visit often and post regularly. Add value every time rather than just noise. Comment on other postings. Subscribe to writers you find value in.

Visibility gets you in the door while Credibility is the currency of success. Your information should emanate and germinate from the vantage point of competence. Back your statements up with empirical data. Keep an open mind. Encourage continual growth. Promote other experts, as well, even when they have conflicting ideas.

When Visibility and Credibility combine against any active population the opportunity for Profitability exists. This triad is called the VCP model.

One word of caution, though, is to apply your time realistically to these sites. Carve a small amount of your schedule for this and stick to that plan. It is very easy to let this time get away from you. I recommend using less productive time for this, as well, until it begins to bear fruit. If you can meet with clients or strategic partners rather than work online—do that. If you can provide customer service or work on your business rather than connect to social media—do that. Small effort on a regular basis is the most effective strategy as opposed to pulling an all-nighter and then avoiding the online world for weeks or months. If you use the word new make sure it is. That is, don’t leave information about a new application (dated May 3, 2007.) Go back and change the word NEW to USEFUL. The person or persons on the other end will be checking in their less productive time and taking sips rather than gulps, as well.

Action steps for this week

1. Join one or more online networking communities. Be selective. Look at other members’ profiles and build yours with the VCP model in mind. You only need a few and take on those you can actually sustain.
2. Start a blog or write a regular column. Think of ten things you wish you knew before starting your business. This can become one entry or ten. Think of ten things you have learned over the past year. Brainstorm other ideas and wade in…the water is fine.
3. Develop an email newsletter for your company. That is a large topic beyond the scope of this blog (at least for now) and many good resources are available. If you have found a good source, why not post that here as a comment to help others? We will all appreciate that (me, you, and the readers.)
4. Remember that both online and offline networking are always based on trust.
5. Understand that online networking has its own cultural norms. Find your niche where you are comfortable and be receptive to feedback.

Ultimately what you bring to the equation is entirely unique and valuable. Let your talent shine through.

© 2011 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.

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Written by bniguy

March 27, 2011 at 2:32 am

Go out and play

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“If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.” ~~Jack Lemmon

In his book The 29% Solution Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of Business Network International, the world’s largest referral organization, divides people into two broad categories.  71% are not networked (as opposed to the rest that make up the title of the book.)  He refers to the 71% as cave dwellers.  Here is his description.

“Mark is a typical cave dweller.  He gets up in the morning in his home cave, climbs into his mobile cave (his four-wheel-drive SUV,) and speeds to his destination for the day—his office cave.  He talks to the same people every day, perhaps visiting the familiar caves of a few colleagues or the same daily diner cave for lunch down the street.  At the end of the day he pilots his rolling cave back the way he came, ending up safely in his home cave, and watches his big-screen TV.  Many cave dwellers, like Mark, find themselves stuck in this pattern day after day.”

If that reminds you of the man in the mirror and you would prefer to be among the 29% that are effective networkers then you have to realize that networking is a contact sport.  Break out of your current rut.

I recommend starting where you can have the most impact.  Refer back to weeks three and four (Picture your Perfect Customer and Field your Winning Team) and network where they are.  Ask your best customer where they network and tag along as their guest.  In fact, if you think it is hard to meet new people you can ease the process by going with a friend.  The important thing is to start today and take your Mom’s advice to go outside and play.

© 2011 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

March 20, 2011 at 2:25 am

Low Hanging Fruit on the Family Tree

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“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” ~~ George Santayana

One of the closest networks you will ever have is your family.  If relationships are built on quality time spent together, on helping one another, on understanding the other person’s motivations, desires, concerns, fears (and they are) then no other group holds such promise for closeness.  They were there for your successes and failures and you were there for them, too.  They know your strengths and weaknesses—maybe better than you do.

Quick question…how well do they know what you do?  Unless you run a family-owned business the odds are that they don’t know it well.  If this is your situation consider how much opportunity you are letting slip by.

When families get together there are many competing topics and all too often business gets left off the agenda.  Yet who would be more vested in your success?

With their permission share what you do, who you help, and how you help them.  Refer back to week 3 and picture your perfect customer.  Also, consider all the valuable resources you have and offer to share them with your family members.  If they need a good painter or auto repair service you can connect them.

Here are a few action steps to take this week:

  • Make a short list of five to ten family members you would like to contact and arrange an appointment—either in-person or on the phone.
  • Start out the appointment by establishing the agenda and time requirements.  Even with small talk thirty minutes should be sufficient.
  • Start with them.  Find out about their work, their business, their concerns, and any problems faced.  If you have solutions within your network—offer to make the introductions.  If you don’t then simply be a good listener.
  • Describe what you do to how you help your clients.  Tell stories as they are illustrative and memorable.
  • If you have a specific request, ask.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting or call.
  • Invite them to your office to see firsthand what you are all about.  Plan to visit their office, as well.

All too often we just assume those closest to us know what we do.  Resolve to remedy that oversight this week.

© 2011 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

March 13, 2011 at 2:02 am

Posted in business, HowTo, networking

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Revisit your contacts

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“Study the past, if you would divine the future.” ~~Confucius

Four weeks ago we took inventory of who’s who and considered the way we move as a bubble of closer relationships inside the current of more distant swirling ones.  The river of time, if you will.

Relationships are strengthened as a function of frequency and recency. (That’s not a word, I know, but rhymes well and helps remind of the concept.)  I told you about my grammar school class.  Frequency was what cemented the relationship as we were together for eight years every school day.  None are recent as grammar school was long ago.  JFK died while I was in second grade.  His opponent, Richard Nixon, had resigned from politics the year before and yet five years after Kennedy’s assassination Nixon won the presidency.  Before completing high school Tricky Dick was disgraced from office.

As children world events swirled around the bubble of our relationships.

I turn your mind to this so you can also consider your past briefly.  There are people you were inseparable from in relationships forged by intense frequency. If you were to reconnect the bond can be quickly reestablished at a very deep level.

For master networkers the Internet in general and Facebook™ in particular makes it very easy to reconnect with these important people in our lives.

Take a few moments to draw out the names of those you cared about in the past.  They felt the same way and, given an opportunity to help you would do so willingly.  Networking with the willing is far more effective than networking with strangers, by the way. Many of us never take advantage of this powerful resource, though.

Once you have a list of people you would like to reconnect with consider what to offer them.  Maybe it is simply to reconnect.  They will likely celebrate your business success or new grandchild just as excitedly as you.  These are simple places to start and should lead quickly to areas of more significant value.  Some of your old friends may be in the same field as you with brighter credentials.  If so, they may want to mentor you.  Others may be starting on a path you have already walked and you can mentor them.  More likely they are in different fields and can become connectors into new networks.  Again, consider your intent.  You are there to reconnect and add value to their lives, as well.

Enjoy this walk down memory lane.

© 2011 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

March 6, 2011 at 1:51 am