networking

Why Gratitude is Your Secret Marketing Weapon

In this week's Small Business Marketing Clinic call I talk about what I think is the key to your marketing and business success: Gratitude. You'll learn my 3 gratitude habits and what kind of impact they can have on your life and your business.

Do you have a gratitude story? Share it in the comments below.

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Referrals - The 3 Step Plan Every Business Owner Needs to Know

Referral Engine Marketing Next to selling more to your current clients, referral marketing is the easiest sale of all. But most small business owners approach it as though it’s rain falling from the sky—they have no control over referrals, they just hope it comes when they need it.

Hope is not a strategy…

If you want more referrals, the good news is that they are just 3 simple steps away…

Step 1. Ask for referrals!

Ok, I know that seems a little simplistic (and it is…we’ll talk about how to ask in a moment) but seriously, if you want more referrals, ASK!

The trick is in knowing how to ask. For most of the business owners I work with there are four barriers to getting more referrals.

The Barriers to Getting Referrals

1. You’re uncomfortable asking for referrals (for some people it not discomfort…it’s downright fear). It’s OK. In fact it’s totally normal to be uncomfortable…even afraid to ask for referrals.

You don’t want to offend your client by begging for more business after you’ve already taken their money, right? I mean, really…it’s like saying you’re just not enough for me, I need more.

If you feel that way about asking for referrals you are far from alone. But your fears are unfounded. In his latest book Referral Engine, John Jantsch shares research that proves we humans are “wired to refer.”

If you think about it, sending someone you care about to a great resource makes YOU feel good and makes you valuable to the other person. It’s a win-win. So your clients need to refer you.

By referring you to others your clients confirm their decision to use you in their own minds. You can actually increase client satisfaction by asking for referrals.

2. You don’t know how to ask. The words you use when you ask for a referral matter greatly. Use the wrong words and you sound selfish, sleezy or worse…desperate.

As I coach business owners to get more referrals, the easiest way I’ve found is to simply ask your clients for introductions.

And be specific about who you want to be introduced to…name names if you can. (I’ll talk about the importance of being specific in a moment.)

3. You don’t know when to ask. Timing is everything. Should you ask at the moment the ink dries on the contract, at the end of the project or somewhere in between?

One of my clients makes a habit of asking anytime a client thanks him for his work. It goes something like this:

Client: “Thank you so much for taking care of this for me…”

You: “You’re welcome. I’m glad you feel good about our work together. Tell me, do you know just one friend or colleague who might need my help too?”

Client: “Yes…my friend Mary.”

You: “I’d love to help Mary if I can. Would you please introduce us?”

Client: “Absolutely!”

Simple…and not at all sleezy.

In my experience there is no one best time to ask for referrals. Ask when the ink dries, because a referral here can boost client retention and stave off buyer’s remorse.

Ask again whenever the client praises you (if they’re praising you daily don’t ask daily…but you could certainly ask monthly without being a pest, if you do it the right way).

4. You don’t have a system for asking for referrals. This is where most businesses fail in referral marketing. They just sit back and expect referrals to show up. Some will, but you’re leaving big heaping piles of cash on the table if you’re not stimulating referrals.

You’ve got to create a system to get referrals, to track referrals, to reward clients who refer and to follow-up with the referrals you receive.

Step 2. Be Specific When You Ask For Introductions

I don’t know Someone or Anyone and neither do your clients. Most of the time when I ask business owners to tell me who would be a good lead for them (and I ask it of just about everyone I meet) I get an answer like this…

“Anyone who has a home really…” or

“Everyone with a car is a prospect for me…” or

“Someone looking to be healthy…”

Sounds absurd when you read it. And it makes it almost impossible for me to refer to you. You have now put the work of identifying your prospects onto me. I hate to tell you, but I’ve got enough to do and I’m not doing your work.

You must make it easy for clients to refer you. Do all of the leg work for them. Then use them to do the one thing you really need…introduce you.

Here’s what I use…

The Top 10 List

My friend and mentor Greta Schulz taught me this trick. I keep a list of the Top 10 people, companies or professions I want to meet. I list them on a one-pager and include my contact information and a short sentence or two about how to introduce me.

You can download a copy of my Top 10 List Networking Template and use it for yourself.

When I meet with strategic alliances or when I ask clients for introductions I simply ask if I can share a list of people I’m looking to get introduced to.

They always say yes…then I give them a copy of my Top 10 List and ask if they know anyone on the list.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get introduced to the 10 people on your list. Then you add another 10 and off you go.

I used this technique when I moved to Tallahassee, Florida in 2007. I knew 2 people in the business community. In just 12 months I was “plugged in” and all of the key people I needed to meet were in my network.

And the best part is that you’ll look like a networking rock star when you use this one little tool. People will ask if they can copy it (and you’ll always say “Of course!”)

One little ninja trick: Ask the other person for their Top 10 List so you can help them get introduced to people you may know.

They’ll fall all over themselves thanking you. Unfortunately, only 1 in 100 will ever send you anything.

So make your list today!

Do Some “Reverse Prospecting”

This is a master technique, that’s so simple, but no one does it. Call one of your closest allies (someone who you have a solid relationship with) and invite them to lunch. Let them know that you want to refer more business back and forth.

Then ask them to bring their client and prospect lists. You take yours.

When you get to lunch swap lists. You check their list for prospects and they check yours. Then agree to make the introductions within a week of your lunch.

Sometimes that’s all you need to create a flood of referrals.

Step 3. Follow-up Quickly

Referrals get stale faster than a carton of milk from the gas-station convenience store.

Commit to following up immediately with every referral. It shows respect for the person who gave you the referral and it serves the person you’re being referred to.

I like phone calls better than emails. They’re more personal and your goal is to build a relationship.

Send a thank you note to the person who referred you.

If you end up doing business, send the referrer a gift. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but sending something will go a long way towards getting more referrals from that person.

Here’s your assignment:

1. Decide how and when you are going to ask for referrals. Write down your plan in 2-3 sentences. Having it on paper will help you stick to it. Write out the words you’re going to use to ask for introductions. Then practice with a friend, you spouse or your dog. The point is to get comfortable with the words you’ll use before you’re in front of a client. Once you’ve decided when to ask. Add it to your checklist at that part of your sales process.

2. Make Your Top 10 List. Download my Networking Top 10 List template and edit it to be your own. This one step will take you less than an hour and will set you apart from every other business in your area. Just do it.

3. Write your follow-up system. Write down the steps you’ll take to follow-up with each and every referral. Make a checklist and don’t forget to take care of the people who refer you.

Do you need more referrals and don’t know where to start? That’s why I created the Get More Clients System. To help business owners and entrepreneurs get all the clients they need to sleep like a baby every night…without worrying about how to make payroll next week. To learn more, request a Get Acquainted Session.

To your success!

Small Business Marketing Consultant Steve Gordon

SBMS 08 | How To Put Yourself In The Path of Opportunity

[audio:http://1000media.s3.amazonaws.com/sbms/08-SBMS-08-Small-Business-Marketing-Tip-13-Ways-to-Show-Up.mp3]

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show I talk about the importance of being in front of your prospects and customers...everywhere they are. And, I share 13 ways you can make it happen.

Download the MP3

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show...

  • Why you need to show up where your prospects and customers hang out.
  • How to multiply yourself to be everywhere at once (at least as far as your prospects are concerned).
  • 13 places you can show up for your prospects

Take Action

  • List 3 places you will start "showing-up" for your prospects (that you're not already doing).
  • Decide when and how you will accomplish your three "show-up" goals.

What Do You Think?

  • How important has it been to your business to "show-up"?
  • What methods are you using to "show-up" successfully?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

SBMS 04 | 12 Secrets of Power Networkers

[audio:http://1000media.s3.amazonaws.com/sbms/04-SBMS-04-12-Essential-Techniques-of-Power-Networkers.mp3]

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show I share the 12 secrets I learned from watching power networkers that helped me go from zero contacts to totally plugged into my new city in less than a year...and how you can do it too.

Download the MP3

In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show...

  • How the most common piece of advice on networking actually kills your chances of success.
  • The "behind-the-scenes" habits that separate the real pros from everyone else.
  • How to make it easier for contacts to refer business to you.

Take Action

  • Identify two groups you can join this month where your potential customers are members.
  • Develop your introduction and practice delivering it to get comfortable.
  • Attend at least one networking event and make appointments with two strategic alliances.

What Do You Think?

  • What techniques have helped you network successfully in the past?
  • What is your biggest obstacle to networking effectively?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Getting Started with LinkedIn - Top 12 Strategies

If you are like most business people, you have probably been sent an invitation to a site called LinkedIn. Then, if you are like the majority of us, we delete the link thinking, "Oh no not another site that I have to sign-up on." So, you are probably reading this right now, going yep...that is me. Why should I register on the site, normally sites like that just send me junk and fill my inbox with worthless email? I can tell you from firsthand experience, there are plenty of sites out there that want you to register and then send you spam 50 times a week. LinkedIn is not one of them. LinkedIn is a powerful networking site, creeping up on popular social networks like MySpace and Facebook. The benefit about LinkedIn is that it is entirely business focused. So, are you interested yet?

What Can LinkedIn Do for Me?

I have been asked the above question more times than I can probably count. My answer to everyone is always, "LinkedIn is a great way to find people. We all go through life never really knowing everything about our work colleagues (sometimes even our friends). LinkedIn has allowed me to read someone's business history in a single screen. The site also helps me understand who they know and network with."

Some interesting facts you probably did not know about LinkedIn:

* The average number of LinkedIn connections for people who work at Google is forty-seven. * The average number for Harvard Business School grads is fifty-eight, so you could skip the MBA, work at Google, and probably get most of the connections you need. Later, you can hire Harvard MBAs to prepare your income taxes. * People with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five. * All 500 of the Fortune 500 are represented in LinkedIn. In fact, 499 of them are represented by director-level and above employees.(blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/ten_ways_to_use.html)

Top Reasons to Use LinkedIn

1. Building your Reputation. LinkedIn is a great tool for people to outline their experience, accomplishment, organizations and network. Too often I have seen incomplete profiles. A crucial element to get LinkedIn to work for you is to make sure your profile is 100% complete. Include all your previous employers, groups you belong to, your "advertisement", websites and other important information. LinkedIn is also becoming a place where employers find candidates, so if you are job hunting, this may be the place for you.

2. Find Qualified Candidates. Ever struggled looking for an employee? If you are like me, it is a love hate relationship. I want to find the best candidate because it will benefit the company, but weeding through all the applicants can be exhausting. Well, how about using your network to find employees? For my last two positions, I hired individuals that came recommended, yes I said recommended, from my network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a great job posting board, which is also very inexpensive. Even if you don't want to field unknown candidates, you can send out an email to all your connections.

3. Find New Connections. Have you ever felt like sometimes you see the same people at the networking events? Would you like to meet new people? Use LinkedIn and do a search. For example, let's say I want to meet Architects. I just go to LinkedIn and type in Architects in the search box. LinkedIn will search my contact's contacts and return the results. The best part is it shows me how I am connected to the person, which can then be used for introductions. I ask Joe Smith to introduce me to his friend the Architect. LinkedIn also provides results of what they call 3rd degree friends. Essentially, your contact has a contact that knows the architect. It seems complicated, but it is a great way to expand your network and your friend's network. Try a search, see what happens. LinkedIn also has introductions, a tool they offer to give you an introduction to a person you want to meet.

4. Increase your Google Ranking. Ever wondered how people's names come up so high up on Google searches? I do not have the secret Google formula, but I can tell you a well written LinkedIn profile earns a high rank on the page. The not so lucky are the people with common names, like Joe Smith, but, the more you have information like LinkedIn (or Blog articles), the better your Google ranking.

5. Make your meeting go smoother. I was once introduced to a contact who knew all about me before I ever met him. He even went on to tell me who we knew in common....talk about ice breaker. All he did was search for me on LinkedIn and viola....all my history and information. I have to admit, from a bird's eye perspective it sounds a bit creepy, but sitting in the meeting it was not. I was actually relieved to have something in common with the person. He, of course, told me he had viewed my LinkedIn profile, which took all the creepiness away. I thought after that meeting, what a great way to learn about someone, search for them on LinkedIn.

6. Ask for or Give Advice. In the question and answer section of LinkedIn, users can post questions and answer questions. For example, if you are a computer hardware expert, you would scroll through and try to answer questions relating to your specialty. What does this do? Well, it builds your credibility as an expert in your field. On the other hand, have a question you want some peer advice on? Ask the LinkedIn users. I have scrolled through the Answers section many times and I am always pleased with the responses I have read, always very professional.

7. Scope out Competition, Customers, Partners. I, like most people, use Google or another search engine to see what information I can find out about my market. The market includes your customers, competitors and partners. LinkedIn is a great tool for research. I especially like it because you can usually see where a person worked previous to their current position. Knowing that information provides a much more in-depth picture about the person or company. Another key advantage is to see what groups your customers or potential customers belong to.

8. Groups. LinkedIn just added a new tool to search groups. The groups range from networking groups to Alumni groups to Company groups. Groups can be a great tool for networking. For instance, I am a member of the Alumni group where I went to college. The group is quite large, but I can search within the group for prospective clients, partners or competitors. I use the group as a common thread when trying to talk to or meet with people. For example, "Joe I see that you are a member of XYZ Alumni group, so am I, what did you study?" There are many different ways to use the groups and their members as leads into conversations. As a plus, when you join a group you can show the group on your profile. The benefit could be others see the group and find they have a common thread with you.

9. Recommendations. LinkedIn has created a system where your contacts can recommend you. I think it is a wonderful tool. Now, when I am searching for a product or service or even a new connection, I can read what other people have to say. I know and you know, we can talk about how great we are till we are blue in the face, but when someone else confirms it......you may have struck gold. Leverage the power of LinkedIn to get recommendations and be sure to give them as well.

10. Help Others. The saying is Give and You Shall Receive. Use LinkedIn to introduce people you think would be a good match. You can easily do introductions to the people with LinkedIn's inMail. The nice thing about giving a contact more connections on LinkedIn is that no one wants to be the person with the least contacts....so help out a friend and send them a contact or two that makes sense for them. Part of helping others can be helping them use LinkedIn. Most of the people I have met have done very little research on how to use LinkedIn to its full potential.

11. Use it on the go. LinkedIn is configured to be able to use it on your handheld device. While you waiting at the airport, doctor's office or another waiting area, log into LinkedIn and network from anywhere. Just go to linkedin.com.  Now you can just browse to the apps on your iPhone or Blackberry.

12. Setup a company page.  While this is still "technically" in beta, it is a good place to get more exposure online for your business.  Setup your company profile information and at the minimum, as people view your profile, they can get more company info if they choose.

I hope you start getting more from LinkedIn! And while you're at it, drop me a line at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimalbritton

Ten Rules of Networking from The [non]Billable Hour

Matthew Homann has a great post on the Ten Rules of Networking over on "the [non]billable hour]" blog. My favorites...

#6. Never enter a conversation at networking event with more than half a drink in your hand. Needing a refill is great excuse to leave.

#8. When you meet someone for the first time, make certain they don't hear you complain. About anything.

#9. The most underrated skill to possess at networking events is ability to end conversations, not start them.

#10. Never "network" to meet people. Network to help people.

Small business owners need to heed these rules for the sake of all of us at the next Chamber of Commerce function.

For more on networking to grow both personally and professionally read my article the 12 Essential Techniques of Power Networkers.

The 12 Essential Techniques of Power Networkers

1. Don't try to sell. For most people it all ends tragically here. They mistakenly stroll into the industry conference or chamber of commerce meeting with the idea that they need to find someone to sell to. Don't do it. It gives people the creeps. And it kills your real opportunity at these events--finding strategic partners.

2. Give before you get. Don't go with your hand out empty to your network. Not until you've made some deposits in your good will account. Build up your account first, by giving referrals.

3. Understand that it's net WORK. I hate to say it (and I'll probably lose half of you reading this now) but power networkers WORK at it.

They cut up the newspaper and magazines to send articles of interest to the people in their network. They set aside time to think about who they know and how people in their network can help each other.

The bad news is that it takes work. The good news is that a small amount of work will yield big results.

4. Be interesting. Everyone says you need an elevator pitch to use when you meet someone at a networking event. But the way MOST people do it is, frankly boring.

It usually goes like this "Hi, I'm Bob, I'm an accountant..." or "Hi, I'm Bob with Enormicon, we specialize in scaleable solutions to strategic problems by finding synergy with customers, suppliers and partners"...Yuck! If you're doing this, you're boring and forgettable.

For our real estate services and surveying business, my partner has used "I give good land..." and "I measure the Earth..." She always gets a laugh and a follow-up question from the person she's talking with. It starts the conversation and people remember.

5. Set goals. Never attend a networking event without deciding how many strategic partners you're going to meet. If you're just starting, commit to two. As you get better, increase the number. When you hit the number go home, knowing you succeeded.

6. Throw a rolodex party. Networking and sales guru Greta Schulz throws "rolodex parties" with key contacts every few months. Agree with your key contacts that you'll meet for lunch and everyone will bring their contact list. You share lists, looking for people you can be introduced to.

7. Be interesting. This one's important enough to mention twice.

8. Make it easy to refer to you. So you've succeeded and you found a strategic partner who wants to refer people to you. She asks you "Who's a good prospect for you?" And you say "Anyone who does ____________." You've just killed your opportunity for a referral.

Instead, make a "Top 10 People I'd Like to Meet List" and give it to your strategic partners. On the list put specific people or specific positions within specific companies such as "Chief Software Architect, Microsoft."

By focusing your partner, you'll get exponentially better results and you'll get them faster.

9. Play matchmaker. Your job in networking is to match up people who can do business with each other or who can refer business to one another. Spend some time each week (put it on your calendar) to think about who you can match up within your network. Then make the introductions. I suggest a minimum of two each week.

10. Say thank you. If you get a referral or introduction from someone, say thanks. Send a personal note ( you get bonus points for cookies or Starbucks cards).

11. Test alliances quickly. Don't waste time on people who don't understand that networking is reciprocal. If you're giving and giving and getting nothing in return cut the relationship.

Often you can determine how the relationship will go during your first conversation. If you're asking all the questions and the potential partner doesn't show interest in what you do...politely move on.

12. Have a system. Make your life easy and have a system for starting conversations, for meeting with partners the first time, for following up and for making introductions.

Having a system does not mean you have to be rigid, just that you follow a defined set of steps. You'll be more effective if you're not reinventing the mechanics of networking at every event you attend.

What techniques work well for you?