Category Archives: Face to Face Networking

Eating an elephant – an expression I would like to ban

When I first started face to face networking I heard many expressions which were intended to help understanding of the way to network.

One of these which I heard frequently was the question ” How do you eat an elephant?”

The supposedly correct answer was ” One bite at a time>”

The principle was excellent: don’t rush into networking relationships you have to take it a step at a time.  The wider message is all about finding out about the other person, seeing if you can help them, and not expecting direct results from the person in front of you, but connecting to their wider network.  Once you understand the joy of having a network and helping other people the What;s in it for Me attitude disappears.  And usually that is when the results do appear.

But what about that poor elephant?  I didn’t even like to think about eating an elephant at all.  In fact I was so revolted by the idea of eating an endangered species that only eats vegetation and does not kill other animals that I found it difficult to listen to the message at all.

I would like to consign this distaseful expression to oblivion. I hope I never see it again in a book, and certainly hope I never hear anyone saying it.   Do you agree?

Business 2012 – free conference with Sir Richard Branson

English: Industrialist Richard Branson at the ...

Sir Richard Branson will speak at business 2012

How is your business going to develop in 2012?

Learning from experts like Sir Richard Branson who have created great success is one of the best ways to get inspired about taking your business forward.

Business 2012 is a free conference with over 500 events where you can listen to business gurus such as Sir Richard Branson,  Lord Sugar and many many others.  All topics are covered and are aimed at areas that are of vital importance whether you are a start up, and sme (small to medium sized business) or a medium sized business.

This is an important event for the UK.  It is sponsored by Blackberry, (smartphones) Regus (serviced offices) and the Daily Telegraph Business Club (inspiration and how-to for smaller businesses).  Take advantage of what is offered and plan a trip to the O2 from Sunday 18th – Tuesday 20th March.

You can listen to keynote speeches, attend seminars and go to workshops.  The website is a joy – simple and well laid out, and you are encouraged to plan your visit.  This is of course best practise and ensures you get to hear the people who interest you.  The other aspect that is important is to be clear what you hope to gain from being present.

Tactics are most likely to be covered in practical workshops where you can take what you learn and apply it to your business. Strategies for the direction of your business may be more likely to be revealed in seminars, and inspiration and motivation from keynote speeches.  The other gain from listening to well-respected experts is that you will gain credibility with your clients.  You can pass on ideas in newsletters and blog posts, and position yourself more strongly simply by mentioning in conversations that you heard them speak.  Your name becomes associated with the well-nown name in the mind of your client or prospect.

I have heard quite a number of the speakers and am looking forward to hearing what they have to say for 2012.  the economy is unlikely to improve quickly, so it is our responsibility to make our own economy as good as possible.

Secure your tickets for Business 2012 now. When planning your visit bear in mind that the first day – 18th March – is Mother’s Day.

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National Women’s Enterprise Day – women marketing naturally

National Women’s Enterprise Day on Wednesday 17 November reminds us that women in business is no longer the exception.  A more feminine business model has been vividly handed on as a legacy by Anita Roddick and Laura Ashley to every woman dreaming at the kitchen table.  The number of inspiring examples of women doing business that really matters has expanded exponentially.

Having a great business is the aim but not at the expense of lonliness, of missing bathtime, the late night teenage conversation, or the quality time with husband, partner, friends and family.

Modern marketing which plays to women’s natural strengths has made the goal more achievable.

The increasing importance of networking face to face suits women’s natural way of doing business.  Dr Ivan Misner has spearheaded this change through BNI over the last 10 years internationally followed by many networking groups for women only including Athena.  BNI’s motto:  ” Givers Gain” (if I give you business you will want to give me business in return) has made a big change in the way men do business, but is part of how most women operate.

When we meet up for one to one meetings we ask about each other.  We want to find links between us, and help each other.  We are just as likely to give a compliment about shoes or a jacket as a laptop presentation, and we are just as likely to choose to work with somebody based on their past or their personal style.  After all, it is the so-called non-critical variables that often end up being the most important.

The shoe or handbag compliment is not fundamentally about shoes or handbags but about values, about style, and the way of seeing the world.  When we respond positively to something about somebody else, we  are more receptive to developing a business relationship, to working together, recommending each other and investing our hard-earned money.

As women we have many many ways of demonstrating our brand values, and helping others to know like and trust us.  Face to face networking where we are our own brochure, direct mail letter and exhibition provides a powerful marketing tool.  Many businesses find all their clients through face to face networking.

The internet marketing explosion of recent times also suits women.  Women in their late thirties are the most frequent users of facebook.  which only a few years ago was simply the place for university students.  To be trusted these days, and have an authentic brand,  you have to reveal something about yourself.  This comes naturally to women – even online – but in my experience men find it much harder.

Women are still responsible for more of the domestic tasks in the home, so working at home reduces the hassle-factor.  No more travelling out to work which involves military-precision organisation for childcare.  The washing machine can be filled, or the family meal prepared without having to replace yourself at the heart of the home.  Setting up a sequence of emails for an autoresponder for your information product can be more satisfying than coping with lengthy meetings and office politics.

Even better – blogging about your day and the ups and downs of home life can be turned into a business.  The office becomes redundant in every sense.  Heather Armstrong of Dooce in the US was one of the first examples of mommy blogging.  She genuinely and naturally wrote about her day – which was of interest to women in a similar situation – leading to massive traffic on her site.  Advertisers lured by the size and responsiveness of her audience appeared bearing gifts with monetary value.

As women we enjoy relationships and getting to know people and it is refreshing that we can now build a business from this place.  Perhaps it will be the unsung heroines who will be the real contributors to the economy in the coming year.

Old business is dead.  Long live new business and national women’s enterprise day!

Complimentary spam comments on your blog

Spam comments that told a story and did not appear to be spam did fool me and Akismet, the spam terminator on WordPress.    Because they were not just a bunch of dreary keywords, which I guess led back to a dubious site, I actually preferred deleting them.  Well, if you are going to delete spam you might as well enjoy it!

Recently the comments thrown up by Akismet are more complimentary.  They have been along the lines of “This is a very interesting post, please write more” or “This is a long and worthwhile post. I look forward to reading your next one.”  or simply “Please write more”.

Am I flattered?

Of course!

Do I want to believe they are genuine?


Do I actually think they are genuine?

No.. although some may be, and I don’t delete them all.

Recently I read a blog post by Michel Fortin the well-known copy-writer where he talks about instigating a zero tolerance approach to Fake Friendly Comments.  As a well-known authority he receives a lot of genuine comments, and an enormous amount of spam comments which recently have been dressed up as compliments.

Now, thinking about it some more I realise when you first start out to comment on someone else’s blog it is in fact quite difficult to know what to say.  You don’t know how the blog writer will respond, and as a normal good natured human you do want to spread good around the world. And despite everything that goes on via the internet, most people are good natured!

So writing a complimentary sentence or two is a natural first step.  After all you wouldn’t force your way into some else’s house unless invited in, and caution is an appropriate response.

So the spam writers have been clever. They have in fact caught what happens in real life.. where people do make vague compliments about each other.  Whether you are writing or receiving a comment on a blog or getting comments that value your business the easiest ones to write are generally non-specific and broadly complimentary. eg

” I have worked with ABC company for years and they are very good.”

“I would recommend John Smith highly.”

“XYZ company are my first choice”

This is the sort of thing people say in real life.  Very often they are the types of comment that my clients think will look good on their website.  They may have tried to get something more substantial from their clients, but they have waited a long time.  The trouble is these comments don’t look real .. even if they are .. and – even worse – they are not interesting to read.

There are no details, no rough edges, no interesting snippets that bring in some life.  Nothing about WHO the writer is, HOW the company has helped, WHAT has changed – with real figures, or real results,  WHEN it all took place, or indeed WHY there was a problem at all.

Once some of these details are written down, the vaguely complimentary comment becomes a great deal more lively.  It is more interesting to read, and becomes of use to the prospective buyer.

“ABC’s financial knowledge has helped us increase profitability by 12% each of the 5 years we have been in business.”

“John Smith’s design work has allowed us to bring in bigger target customers and position the company more confidently in our sector.”

XYZ have consistently cleaned our offices to a high standard.  We have moved to larger premises in Anytown a number of times and they are the number one company we call each time.”

In fact it may be quite a relief to just tell the truth and not have to be complimentary at all!

So too with blogs.  While a warm tone is of course preferable as the conversation is more interactive, responding to the meat of the blog post is preferable to a vaguely complimentary sentence.

It also means that your comment looks more authentic and is less likely to be deleted as spam.

Face to face networking BNI is the daddy

BNI organises breakfast networking meetings worldwide and last year attributed £ 192,000,000 of business to BNI members. This makes BNI a global economy in its own right.

This figure (or its yearly equivalent) is read out each week in meetings and largely goes unnoticed by members.  It does not directly impact their own business, or their conversations with friends, business partners or visitors.  And quite rightly, since they have mostly been up since 5:30 am, hot coffee and breakfast are a priority. (Think Maslow.)

This figure is the equivalent of the GDP of a number of countries, but produced from fragmented sources.  So there is no big story or something for the media to get their arms round.

Instead the drama of playing fast and loose with other people’s money (bankers), or grabbing for themselves and paying no tax (politicians),  the members of BNI are typically using their own money and contributing to the national revenue.  They are working away quietly.   In fact, Charlie Lawson who has recently taken over the running of BNI in the UK wants BNI members to help themselves and the economy  ” I want to help you  pay more tax”.

But as well as sticking a BNI label on spending that might have occurred anyway and was re-directed, I guess that the members created business opportunities and money where none would have existed before.

Is this the answer to the recession? Small businesses stepping up?

If all the money made from all the networking groups were laid end to end and counted I am sure that would boost confidence to get us through a recession faster.

BNI is the daddy of networking because of its size, global reach and longevity…and for the moment we will leave the money to one side.

Started by Dr Ivan Misner at his kitchen table in California, BNI grew organically as an extension of meeting up regularly with friends who had businesses.  The members created opportunities for each other by passing on a “warm lead” or referral obtained by word of mouth not by looking in Yellow Page

Recommendations with a personal endorsement are the currency of golf clubs, old boy networks and mums at the school gates, yet Ivan Misner’s approach was revolutionary at the time.   It made the referral system transparent and inclusive, and it also made it ethical.  The idea began to spread when the second accountant/CPA wanted to join them for breakfast which caused a moral dilemma about who would get the business. So a new group (or “chapter” in the BNI lingo) was created.

BNI was brought to the UK 13 years ago by Martin and Gillian Lawson who saw it is action in Canada (presumably under the care of Steve Lawson – yes note the surname!). Their drive contributed to the fact that the UK became the fastest growing country worldwide for BNI.

However, during the last 13 years the networking explosion on line and offline has meant many new groups have started. Whether directly or indirectly they have been able to capitalise on positioning themselves as being “better than BNI”.

This means that BNI is the daddy – ie is the organisation that is the benchmark.

In terms of developing the brand this poses a number of problems for the new team of Charlie Lawson and Tim Cook who will be taking the organisation forward.

Next post will appear in two days time.  Please add any comments or thoughts…thanks!

Face to face networking – small business marketing spark

A small business needs marketing spark. The cost-effective way to breathe in new ideas and get inspiration is by getting away from the computer and out there meeting people. The best way of doing this is by doing face to face networking rather than closing sales deals.

What’s so good about networking for a small business?

You hear new ideas which could be your perfect next step
You hear what you have heard before but with the opportunity for it to mean something different this time
You can have a lot of conversations which could be the start of the perfect business relationship
You re-connect with people you know already.

Although it is important to follow up (Duh!), that’s not the essential after-networking activity.

The most important follow up is with your marketing ideas – your marketing spark.

The chances are that while you were away from your desk you had an enormous number of great ideas. The trouble is that it can be easy to forget them when you get back to daily activity.

If you have not been able to write down your ideas they could be lost for ever. We may record notes from a business meeting with a client but forget to do this when the meetings are more coincidental.

My suggestion is to

  • make time to have a de-brief
  • think through the journey to the event
  • go through the event in your mind and see if there are any ideas which re-surface
  • think about the chance conversations you may have had while you were waiting for food or drink
  • run through what the speakers talked about
  • look at the cards again and remember what you talked about
  • (This is very different from looking at the cards to give yourself something to do, like process them follow them up)

  • think about the journey back
  • You are not giving yourself a To Do list or contributing to data overload, but gently exploring all the associations and ideas. Write them down.

    I have just been on a mammoth networking and one-to-one experience lasting over a day and a half. By going through this process I managed to capture many of the ideas I had at the time. In fact I usually get my best ideas while travelling which is probably because my subconscious is processing what I have taken in.

    This way of looking back helps to reconnect with those ideas that create the spark that will be the inspiration for your business in the future.

    Face to face networking – how to choose the right group

    Deciding where to hang your hat in Networkingland is a big decision.

    It is best to try out different groups to see what you like and don’t like.  Don’t commit at first if you don’t want to.  Most groups will let you visit twice before making a decision.

    If you have been in the corporate world the small business way of meeting and getting to know people can seem strange at first.  All groups vary and it becomes easier to work out which suit you having seen the variety that is out there.

    Then ask yourself :  Are there people I like?

    You do need to be on a wavelength with some of people present, and the organisation.  The more wholeheartedly you can support the group and people in it the more you will enjoy it… and the better it will work for you.

    Next question: Can me-and-my-business develop here?

    Will you learn new stuff, think in a different way, become more focused, confident or just plain ole grow?

    Next question: Is it fun?  Is there laughter .. or the potential for laughter?

    This is very important to me, personally.  Where you can have fun you are also likely to create great relationships.  If networking feels totally like work and a bit of a slog, the chances are you won’t be getting up early in the morning, or leaving the warmth of the family hearth on a winter’s night.

    Is it in the right physical place?

    For your business to be on the map it is a good idea for your networking group to be in the right place on the map. Is it near work or home? Near the train station, near my clients?  Does it feel in the right place and does the venue feel right for you, too?

    Is it the right environment for where your business is going now?

    You can’t tell how things will develop, and of course you can contribute to that development.  All you can judge is whether it is right for your business now.  You never know, that potential may never happen.    If it doesn’t feel right for now it could not be the place to join.

    The connections you make networking have the potential to turn into the best business you could wish for and for the people to become life-long friends.

    You can’t outsource face to face networking to a third party, so investing business time wisely leads to a good personal and professional return on investment.  In my book that means money and fun!

    Face to Face networking – types of groups

    Networking  groups that meet face to face tend to fall into two categories. Irrespective of whether the group meets for breakfast, coffee, lunch, drinks or an evening meal some are open to all, and some only to businesses that do not compete with another.

    The first is a general opportunity for business people to get together. ..on a turn-up-when-you-feel-like-it basis.  So you could meet 7 accountants in one meeting, or find 5 other businesses that do the same – or roughly the same – as you do.

    The benefit of this kind of networking is that it is usually quite relaxed.  You have to take the initiative to follow up with people you find interesting as you may not meet them on a repeat occasion, which means that there are no expectations. You have the chance to meet the “competition” and in fact may find that you could work together.

    The second type of networking where only one type of business is allowed to be present means that effectively you are defending the space against other comers.   Usually these groups meet more frequently, and there is an expectation that the members will use people in the group to supply products and services, and recommend them to others.  So there are more risks and more rewards.  If group members do not deliver to a professional standard there can be problems, but when businesses work well together and develop professional relationships the potential is unlimited.

    For a healthy networking life it is important to have a core of trusted peers, but also get into new networks and meet different businesses.

    Part of the joy of networking is in introducing different business people to each other for their benefit.  The gain to you, the networker, in addition to a warm fuzzy feeling of doing good (which is important!) is that you become viewed as a go-to person.  You effectively become the centre of the network,  and your business gets viewed highly as well.  Once your business is known and trusted people are more likely to buy from you.

    The best solution is to find a “core” group that resonates with your values, and where you can contribute to others, and also to go to other events to find new businesses and keep your network working.

    Face to Face networking – small business No1 marketing idea

    Face to Face networking is often the preferred marketing idea when people set up their own business.

    In a larger business you probably had lots of contacts, and a yearly calendar of events, such as awards, exhibitions and conferences where you would keep up with what is happening in your niche.  In a small business working on your own – even if not in the back bedroom – life can seem easier but you may find some of the structure is missing.

    To be sure you are rid of the politics, the promotion pressures and the people you did not get on with.  But on the minus side you miss the people you did get on with, there is no chance of promotion, and no gossip or coffee conversations.  There isn’t even a commute to moan about .. and you certainly don’t want to start complaining about the boss!

    Face to Face networking offers a way to plug the gap.

    If it is local you get a chance to meet a whole new community of business people who effectively become your peers.  It is much more pleasant to meet others in the flesh and have a conversation rather than trying to sell.

    When they know like and trust you they are more likely to buy from you, and you have a chance to get to know them gradually over a period of time.  Unless you are a born salesman or woman this can seem a more authentic  and enjoyable marketing idea than cold calling or even starting to write about what your business does.

    It also gives you a chance to practise different ways to talk about your business within a comparatively safe environment.

    Inspiration on the checkout

    Yesterday I went to the supermarket to stock up for Easter.  And I bought a bunch of flowers.

    As she was checking the goods through the scanner the assistant picked up the flowers and said ” Thank you I would have served you anyway.”

    It took me a few seconds to realise that she was making a joke…and then I burst out laughing.   The atmosphere around the cashtill changed immediately, and the next person in the queue joined in with the laughter.

    What a great moment.  We felt connected.  I doubt the management  had told the check out assistants what to say .. and it felt  quite special. There was less of a risk because everyone was looking forward to the Easter holiday and may have been more relaxed than normal.  Good customer service.