How do networkers unwrap the best networks?



I get asked this all the time and much like “What are the best modern ways of marketing?” there’s never an easy answer.

I was given recently given a book by John Brandler whom I met at a “hidden networking” event that my “competitors” never attend. They’re the best for me.

John is an art consultant and we had both, independently, decided to dip our toes into a network that was off the beaten track. The book is a great guide to fusing new & old techniques to help businesses gain new clients. This post is about why some networks remain hidden, connecting with the gems and how what you are “known for” can help you meet the right people.

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Networkers get results with old and new



What is the oldest form of marketing? Whether in a business environment where you get asked about your business or have the opportunity to present at a seminar, attending an exhibition, meeting friends or new people in a restaurant you need to let people know what you do. Networkers can achieve success by combining the oldest and the newest and complementing face to face with online activities.

“As the oldest form of marketing, networking still plays a major role in marketing your brand, product or service.” So say the authors of Fusion, a book about The new way of Marketing, who advocate having a VKUM – vision, key messages, USP’s and mission statement. I agree with them. This post is about why what you stand for is important, how do you define your vision in messages and how can USP’s and mission statements really help people remember you?

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What’s your VKUM?

I call this ‘your story’. Whatever you call it others want to know what it is. Talk about it with impact, panache and resonance to whomever asks “what do you do” and you will find it easy to meet your dream clients. Even if the person who asks met you at a random dinner party.

If you want them to think “I need that” you only have a tiny window or the opportunity may be lost forever. You have as little as 5 seconds when dealing with busy people. Especially if they’re not at an “organised” networking event. They don’t want to listen to a “pitch” full of features. They want to hear something that interests them.

How do you define your vision in key messages?

Your vision will be what you are eventually known for. Whether you’re passionate about children and delivering training to Mum’s or passionate about art and advising people on collections, you will have a good idea of what you want to be known for. Once you have worked that out you can start to develop key messages.

When networking you have a fantastic opportunity to tell your story and gauge the impact. People cannot always hide the fact they don’t get what you do. Networking helps you determine who doesn’t want what you have. The human element (most of us want to help each other) means networkers point you in the right direction. They can tell you who wants what you have or that they just don’t get it. That’s why networking still works today, it’s like minded people helping each other.

Why are people interested in USP’s and mission statements?

Busy people you meet are interested in what you have to offer them, then they are interested in you. Your USP’s are what you offer that other people don’t. Or what you offer that the person you are speaking to doesn’t already have. If you owned a poodle parlour, you might offer a reminder service much like a dentist. Simple, yet effective in these busy times.

The mission statement could be something like ‘ensuring no poodle has a curl out of place’. Combining these two elements when meeting dog lovers who ask what you do will certainly get their attention. You may think that only poodle owners are interested in this. Perhaps, yet if my best mate had a poodle that they loved I would not hesitate in making the connection. Saying you run a poodle parlour will mean I compare you to other poodle parlours I know about. Being the cheapest may not last forever.

Wrap up: Having a story can turn informal social meetings into business contacts. Initial interest can be developed with key messages and USP’s when appropriate. Combining offline and online networking ensures contacts remember you for what only you can do. Your vision and your mission.

Top Tip; The book has a to-do list for each form of new marketing mentioned on the home page for Fusion. Pick one that you are at least partly comfortable with and check if you are doing as much as you can to maximise the ROI. Find someone that uses a similar platform and compare results.

P.S. I recently got married and blogged about social connections making it happen. It’s got pictures which this blog is sadly missing.

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The early bird captures the Bride



I recently got married and enjoyed every minute of the day. You’re probably wondering ‘what has this got to do with networking?’ Well, the reason my wife and I had such a fabulous time is because everything was well planned and the people we chose to make it happen were brilliant. We found all of them through networking of one kind or another. The brilliant band deserved their PR opportunity – it’s hardly Hello! magazine.

Contrary to what I had been told, the day of our nuptials didn’t pass really quickly and I was able to savour every minute. I can remember every magical detail. My wife is an Operations Director and the wedding was in Sicily (where my wife Josie is from). Read on to find out how we did without a wedding planner, how we found some of the ‘wedding network’ connections and………did it really go smoothly?

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Why is a first impression so important?

Anyone that has been married will tell you that suppliers seem to add an extra zero when the word wedding is mentioned. It initially proved difficult to find someone with experience of planning a wedding in a small Sicilian town. When we did, we were distinctly unimpressed with the response of those we approached, even though some had been recommended. We decided to find our own venue, photographers, florists etc. I could go on yet we all know detail that goes into a “one-off” event is immense.

My wonderful wife dovetailed with her equally delightful sister in Sicily to find everything and everyone we needed by asking their existing contacts. Josie, Maria and I agreed we had to meet everyone face to face before we picked them. That wasn’t easy yet it was imperative because the day had to go without a hitch. And there were a lot of cogs in this wedding wheel.

Does ‘word of mouth’ always work?

Just one example was our want for two photographers who had worked together before. If one couldn’t travel we wanted a reserve and we found such a pair in Cambridge via word of mouth. These were one of few UK based suppliers. Coincidentally, I had been asked to work for Best of Cambridge who had heard about workshops I had delivered for Best of Richmond. I was able ask my Cambridge contacts about the photographers too and that gave me even more confidence. We went on to make sure I delivered the workshops and met the photographers on the same day. My wife makes these things happen!

Everyone played their part in the run up and the day itself was truly Magical. The only glitch on the actual wedding day was when one of the hairdressers turned up late. This pushed everything back and would have left one of the bridal party with an odd set of locks. Luckily, the embarrassment was avoided because the other hairdresser made good time and saved the day. However, this could have been avoided because ‘word of mouth’ had warned us.

What if ‘word of mouth’ is ignored?

People in business network in order to generate business via word of mouth. It sometimes takes the place of a first impression. My nephew-in-law (Carlo) had initially expressed his concern that the ‘late’ hairdresser had been late in the past. He heard this through the “grapevine” – the oldest network there is. For some reason, this went under my radar – ‘listen to Carlo and all young people’ is a lesson I learned from hindsight. Bad news travels exceptionally fast in close knit communities, much like online communities. So make sure the vast majority of your news is good news.

On the contrary, the well prepared hairdresser is considered a hero. His reputation has grown overnight and everyone that is asking about him is hearing good things. The wedding was also featured in the Sicilian press. We had no objection to this happening because the band were brilliant. When we met them they were full of personality just like they were on our Big Day. Guess where we found them? YouTube.

Wrap up: Word of mouth is a prelude to a first impression. Don’t forget to ask your existing contacts for help when you need something, they usually want to help you. LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, etc. are all platforms people can use to introduce you  or others – if they want to. The word of mouth you receive about other people is often unavoidable on these platforms, so make sure yours is good.

Top Tip; Always have a Plan B. Having a contingency photographer became a real benefit as my Mum fell ill before the big day and wasn’t allowed to travel. Yet she is looking forward to seeing how both our days unfolded in pictorial form. A happy side effect of contingency planning.

Don’t forget, if you want to improve your networking results sign up using our RSS or email feed at the top right of the page to receive details of posts, top tips, special offers, events and promotion’s.

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Networkers on auto pilot never take off



This post explodes one of the main myths you hear about networking – that you have to have a pitch you can repeat again and again. Much has been written about what to say when meeting someone for the first time. It is tough to make a clear, succinct yet powerful opening and ‘elevator pitches’ are much maligned. Read on to find out why the most common mistakes are the most damaging, what you should be doing if you want to make an Oscar Winning first impression and a top tip for you to use tomorrow – or today.

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What is networking auto pilot?

Auto pilot is a fantastic way of maintaining a course once it has been set. Yet it’s pretty useless if you’re stuck on the runway. Networkers going through the motions of networking might not be getting what they truly deserve for their efforts. Typically, auto pilot networkers have the same conversations with the same people or are saying the same thing to different people. They prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ yet people they meet still don’t seem able to help them. They’re probably quite willing.

How can you tell when somebody is on auto pilot when networking? It’s when you ask someone what they do and they automatically tell you what you are. You probably don’t do this yet how may people do you meet each week that tell you the name of their job when you have asked them what they do. You ask them “what do you do?” or something similar and they tell you what they are, their job title or job function (sales director for an IT company is one example). It’s actually crazy – it makes no sense at all. Yet it happens every day!

Why is it a mistake?

Nearly every day I engage with people and we get round to talking about business, when it suits them of course. When they ask what I do I let them know what it is they will get by working with me. I may have spent years gaining different job titles certificates, experience and people I work with are still more concerned with the return they get on their investment. So I tell them what that is likely to be when I first meet them. A ‘story’ doesn’t have to be action packed or a tear jerker. Yet it must have resonance with the people you are likely to meet or they won’t remember it or tell others about it.

When someone tells me their job title or job function instead of what they do I have no idea who I may be able to connect them with in my network. There are loads of Sales directors in IT companies but they are not always able to express what they bring to the table in a networking environment. Sure, I spend time asking them questions to find out more. More often than not they provide tremendous value and I’ve developed techniques to work out exactly what it is they have to offer and whom they should be speaking to. It benefits me too because I have a cracking network of suppliers whom I’ve met when networking online and offline.

What should networkers do to generate interest?

Getting off the networking runway or changing course means they have to make an oscar winning first impression so people interested in their ‘story’ can help them take off or reach a revised destination.  They are the co-pilots, they support and steer a craft in the right direction. They can continue to do so whilst you are busy providing your products or service.

Without engaging people and helping them understand what they can really do for their contacts networkers run the risk of being ready to provide tremendous value that too few people know about. When someone is asked what they do it is an opportunity to win business from their competitors or provide something truly unique. If they’re on autopilot they miss opportunities that they will remain oblivious to. Do you have or even need a story?

Wrap up: Networking doesn’t always work. Ever feel that you were continuously taxi-ing and getting ready for take-off. Perhaps you’re been in a network, everyone should know what you do by now yet you’re not getting your fair share? ‘Why networking doesn’t always work and what networkers can do about it’ is the title or our Special Report. Sign up to our RSS feed to be among the first few to get their own advanced free copy.

Top Tip: There are some networkers who are tasked to only speak to specific types of people. You’ll find them awkwardly peering at name badges before engaging in a conversation. Don’t worry if they ignore you – it’s because you’re not on their target list for immediate sales. Rather than squinting and craning when meeting new people just hold out a hand and announce “I’m Jason”. Please insert your own name :-). When they reply with their name the conversation has started if you know what to ask.

P.S. Next time I explode the myth about not being able to network in social settings or with strangers. It involves a healthfood café, a queue and an inventor. Not your typical networking combination!

Don’t forget, if you want to improve your networking results sign up to our RSS or email feed at the top right of the page to receive details of posts, top tips, special offers, events and promotion’s.

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Word of mouth ripples – Networkers turn the tide in their favour



How do you stop a ripple?

This post is about unstoppable power of word of mouth. Once it’s started, the ripple effect takes over. If the word of mouth is interesting to enough people, you can’t help hearing about it – even when you might not want to. Read on to find out why a ripple is better than a splash and get a top tip for turning the tide in your favour.

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Do you need to make a splash to start a ripple?

A teacher recently told me about networking worked from a consumer perspective. We got talking about the dictionary term of networking – “to form business contacts through informal social meetings”. He had never networked as far as he was concerned. He found that the dictionary was far removed from the description of networking events he had heard about. I reassured him that not all networking events were the same, not everyone splashes you with their sales pitch.

He was trying to tell me of the effect word of mouth had on him, so I asked him to explain. He recently had a toothache and told his Mum that he was going to visit the dentist in the centre of Town. His Mum told him he should go the dentist “up on the Hill”. His toothache subsided and a similar conversation with his neighbour ended similarly.The dentist has helped his neighbour’s wife. Later that day a telephone conversation with a friend ended the same way. “They must be really good with toothache” he thought to himself.  And now he really needed someone that was really good with toothache. I told him that this was a networking result, some people network effectively within their existing network.

How do ripples start? And are they always a good thing?

It can start with great service and a ripple can be measured if he asks his new clients where they found out about him. Are they always good? Recent events have proved otherwise. Perhaps the dentist “in town” had suffered a ‘Murdoch’. Maybe he hadn’t started any ripples by offering a standard service? In either case, a different sort of ripple starts, the tide turns. You can start ripples easily enough yet stopping them takes some doing – no matter how big or small your organisation may be.

No-one had mentioned any other dentist, just the dentist on the Hill. They were clearly the go-to person for the local community. This dentist is so good his clients happily told others about it with no incentive other than to help someone else. I explained to Mr Arscott that networking results were about word of mouth reaching the right people at the right time rather than pitching at business networking events. Whenever a dental problem is mentioned he gets a mention. The ripples have a life of their own. I’m going to name this sort of ripple an Arscott. It’s a really helpful ripple.

Why is word of mouth so powerful?

When I asked which dentist he plumped for, Mr Arscott told me he had made the effort to go up the Hill and was pleased with the treatment he received. Now he was telling me and I’m telling you, the ripples continue. When I enquired about his reasoning he thought for a moment.

Then he announced that one of the reasons was to avoid looking stupid! I asked how he had come to that conclusion. He explained that he would have looked an idiot if he had not taken the advice, gone elsewhere and still had a toothache. He just knew that the people he had chatted to were bound to ask how his tooth was when they bumped into him again. When he does, the ripples will continue.

Wrap up: Are personal brands grown this way? Who is telling people about you? When you generate word of mouth you’re helping people make good decisions about their needs. They will thank you if you help their contacts and they can share your story with others. I had a ripple that crossed the Atlantic. If you have a story about a ripple, let us know in the comments section below. Go on, start a ripple.

Top Tip: Work out who you have delighted recently or who has delighted you. Could you start a ripple? Are you on twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or other places where word of mouth goes viral? The ripples and waves of public opinion are happening daily. You can ride the waves if you let your network know what you can really do for them. Don’t forget to kelp them first!

Don’t forget, if you want to improve your networking results sign up to our RSS or email feed at the top right of the page to receive details of posts, top tips, special offers, events and promotion’s.

Beyond Networking is a networking results company. Saving time and generating more leads is everyone’s dream. You could attend one of our briefings. To see if you can save time and effort when networking get in touch for an exploratory chat. It will take 15 minutes and you can tell me to get lost at the end of it if you like.

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