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Archives for Personal Relationships

You have a supply chain inside your own company

and many of us have a supply chain outside the company.  We’ll discuss how to network within your company first.

A supply chain is a group of people whose job it is to get results and give aid to fellow employees working to achieve results.  

Some network members are in your own department, such as your supervisor and your contracts administrator.  Some are in departments before and after your role.  For example, if you are in sales — you need to know about inventory (before your department) and shipping (after your department), as well as others, such as order entry and order payments??.  

If you know these people by name, share some stories, and let each other know how your work optimally, you can get your work done much faster and smoother.  That process of getting acquainted personally and business-wise is productive internal business networking.

Step 1:  Write down the flow chart of your function… and the people/positions that come before you and after you in the flow of achieving your assigned results.  Well, maybe first, you need to identify what results really matter in your job!

Step 2. Identify the people at your own job level… and the people above and below your level. Meet them and offer them a token of your respect (information, cup of coffee, department ad specialties, etc.)  Be helpful to them by asking for their job goal and their wisdom and showing how you hope to support their goals.

Step 3: Add notes to your calendar to follow-up at least monthly.  Share helpful information (not trade secrets!) and ask for their input on what’s happening in the company or industry.  Ask how you can work together better.

Step 4.  Follow through.  Do what you said you would do.  It’s that simple.

Step 5.  Buy a box of “Thank You” cards and use them after every significant piece of shared information, referral, insight or connection your team provides you.  Be appreciative, but don’t gush.  Be sure to invite key members of your supply chain to a dinner or party at least once a year.  This is for their benefit to network with your trusted network!

Web technology makes it very easy to quickly communicate with so many people that it’s easy to forget the overriding purpose of creating a powerful web site.

It’s cool to be able to interact with customers who come to a web site. We can share a great deal of information, gather more profile data than we think we can use, and provide an entertaining, informative, and educational environment.

It’s so cool that we sometimes lose sight of what we’re trying to accomplish with this technology. Sure, we want to sell products with e-commerce or generate leads for salespeople.

But how does this impact the audience? I mean, really impact them.

Many people involved in Internet marketing feel that they’re helping members of their audience improve their lives through the information and products provided on the web.

Some time back a series of TV spots ran for iVillage. They talked about women with real problems finding real help from people like themselves. Because many ailments are shared by very small groups of people, these groups are so small that local support organizations aren’t always available to help. The Internet provides access to those communities of people who share common interests and needs, and are willing to help.

Speaking of TV commercials, another company is advancing the concept of one-to-one marketing and mass customization. Xerox periodically runs a campaign with the theme, “keep the conversation going.” This campaign shows that providing personalized information to customers appeals to people – on paper, of course. Xerox makes a good case that profile data can be used to personalize more than just web sites and e-mails.

Influence Decisions

But all of these – from communities of like-minded people to personalized web, e-mail, social media, and, yes, paper-based communications – are done for one reason, and that’s to influence decisions.

Communication is a give and take. Whether it’s an online community where people share their experiences or an e-commerce site where merchants provide products (and get paid). We communicate when we want to influence those around us to be like us, respect us, and sometimes buy from us.

Internet Interaction

But how do we actually use the web to provide the kind of interaction that touches people and influences their decisions? The slogan used in the Xerox TV commercial has the answer: Keep the conversation going.

The conversation we use in everyday life is also aimed at influencing the decisions people around us make. We know that we need to speak the language of the person we’re trying to communicate with and understand what they’re feeling.

Have you watched a couple of Internet techies talk to each other? At first they ask a few questions to learn about the other person’s experience level and background. Then they shift into a very different level of talking that uses a language of their own, sometimes called “technospeak” (and sometimes called “technobabble”). They don’t care if the non-technical people around them don’t understand their TLAs (three letter acronyms), because those conversation shortcuts help them communicate better.

Building Relationships with Conversation

They can quickly form a bond of trust and understanding that frequently allows them to learn from each other. That respect can lead to learning something new that influences their decisions.

So how can we use conversational techniques on the web to influence visitors? Portions of the Xerox web site are written in a conversational style, but there’s more to making a site conversational than the style of writing.

A truly conversational site learns about visitors, saves that information in profiles, and then uses that knowledge to react to different interests.

Here’s a quick test to see if your web site is conversational:

  • Does the site ask questions aimed at learning about each person?
  • Can the site determine if someone is just starting to learn about products like yours or has researched the market and is about to make a purchase decision?
  • Does the text on the site change to match the interest and knowledge level of the visitor?

These are just a few of the ways that profiles about people can be used to make a Web site more conversational, but the real focus should be on getting in step with each visitor and matching what the site says with what people are thinking and feeling. The art of conversation is taught in books, classes, and seminars, so there is a procedure for doing it. Why not use the same procedure on the Web?

Intuitive navigation and great design help people find the right document. But taking advantage of meaningful profile data allows dynamic Web and e-mail to make an impact on members of the target market and influence their purchase decisions

Cliff Allen, cofounder of SureToMeet, president of Coravue

i-biz-networking-skills

Customer loyalty is one of those elusive qualities that every company strives to achieve. While many companies have repeat customers, very few attain the goal of having customers that rave about their products and services.

One reason companies have a hard time achieving a high degree of customer loyalty is that they misunderstand why customers are loyal. And they use incentives and promotions in ways that don’t actually motivate customers to be loyal.

Loyalty Programs

Many times, marketers think loyalty programs and incentive programs are synonymous, but giving customers a discount or gift is just one way we can earn their loyalty. Understanding your customers’ various buying motives allows you to tailor a loyalty program so it’s a win-win.

Many marketers and salespeople are quick to cut prices to win customers because it’s quick and easy. Who wouldn’t like a price cut? However, savvy managers know it’s best to hold off lowering the price to ensure that a discount is actually required to motivate customers to make a purchase.

Salespeople have done this on a case-by-case basis since salesmanship was born. Retailers started using one of the best-known incentive programs in 1896 when S&H Green Stamps became available.

When American Airlines started the first frequent flyer program in the 1970s, the premise was “If you like flying for business, then you’ll love flying for fun.” Times have changed, and today it’s common for frequent flyers to be members of several programs.

So, how much loyalty do these frequent flyer programs generate if it takes a special web site or software just to manage the reward? It depends on how much traveling you do, which cities you frequent, and a number of other factors.

Incentive Programs

On the web, incentive programs such as MyPoints and Netcentives have become popular with some consumers because rewards can be earned quickly through multiple merchants. In addition, the S&H Green Points program will offer web merchants and consumers the familiar S&H Green Stamp brand of incentives.

But instead of offering incentives to every customer without regard to their profile, look at your marketing objectives and then use these tools to motivate customers to help you achieve your objectives.

For instance, take two components of a customer’s profile: how often they purchase and the size of their order. It’s easy to identify customers who place small orders often and customers who make occasional large purchases. Both groups can be motivated to shift their purchases from a competitor to you by providing incentives based on their profile.

Trying to get customers who make frequent purchases to buy even more frequently is probably not possible. So, the objective for this group would be to increase the size of their orders.

Likewise, trying to get customers who make large purchases occasionally to increase the size of their orders would be out of the question. Instead, the objective would be to motivate them to buy more frequently.

A generic discount or points reward system is not necessarily the best way to achieve these objectives because it doesn’t reward the customer for taking the desired action.

It doesn’t take a complex personalization system to make this work. First, segment customers who should receive different incentives. Then, e-mail the different groups and track their click-through back to the site and their purchases.

For customers who make large but infrequent purchases, you might offer a discount on any size purchase made within, say, 60 days. Customers who make small purchases about once a month could be offered a discount on any order that amounts to several percentage points over their largest order.

While these promotions are aimed at most repeat customers, there is another group that deserves special attention. So, what do we do for those customers who make frequent and large purchases? Thank them!

Nurture Loyal Fans

It’s customers like these who buy frequently and bring up the average order size. And, it’s customers like these who you want to feel special about your company because they are your loyal fans.

These people will go out of their way to tell others about your products or services. Would an ordinary incentive program motivate these people to spend more? Yes, but there is more potential in recognizing that these customers may be more motivated by non-monetary rewards. Try including their testimonial on your web site or inviting them to be part of a customer advisory council.

These fans treat their relationship with the company in a special way. They demonstrate their loyalty with their money, their mouths, and their e-mail.

You’ve probably had the same experience that I had recently when a friend raved about a particular web site. During lunch he told me about how  wonderful greatSmarterKids.com is.

He mentioned their referral program, where by having their site send me a $10 discount coupon, he also received a $10 discount coupon. After lunch, I received a personalized e-mail he initiated on their site which included a special URL that would give me a discount, and I knew he would soon be making another purchase to save $10.

While this particular program isn’t aimed at specific customer segments, it does provide customers with a way to share their enthusiasm for the company and receive a benefit at the same time.

Many times marketers talk about one-to-one marketing as if it were just segmenting a market into very small groups, then tailoring the marketing communications to those groups.

True one-to-one marketing goes beyond that by recognizing that we’re building a relationship with individuals. These are people who deserve our loyalty by our listening to their needs and desires, then looking for special ways to treat these loyal customers.

Are you always on the lookout for a good book or article on networking techniques? Here’s one we spotted: Never Eat Alone by well-known networker Keith Ferrazzi,  a “how to network” book — tips and techniques on how to grow your contact network.

It’s a pleasant surprise to find that it’s really about growing relationships — mostly business relationships.

Networks vs. Relationships

You might wonder why there’s a distinction between networking and building relationships.

If you’ve ever been to a networking event and exchanged business cards with someone, only to never talk with that person again, then you were networking.

However, if you’ve had continuing interaction with that person — perhaps working on a project together or referring business to each other — then you have developed a networking contact into a relationship that will hopefully continue to grow and be valuable to both of you.

In Never Eat Alone Ferrazzi explains the value of having access to people who can help you succeed. One of the keys to obtaining access to influential people is “reciprocity” — making sure that over time the relationship benefits both people. Sometimes you’ll need the other person for assistance, and sometime later the other person may ask you for help. The key is that neither person “keeps score” trying to equalize the amount of help each person gives the other.

Check Your Compass

A key aspect to developing a mutually beneficial connection is knowing how you and the other person can help each other.

This requires that you have a clearly defined mission, or general direction, that you’re heading. Those of us who work independently sometimes think we need to be very specialized and focus on doing one thing so we can have one “brand image.” However, networking only within a specialized area limits the range of people you meet.

Although I’ve worked in technology, advertising, media, sales, and other areas, there is a common thread to what I do: help business people communicate with customers better.

So, instead of being concerned about people thinking I lack career focus, I prefer to look at my overall “mission” or “purpose” that guides me in a general direction.

In other words, you don’t need a AAA road map with the complete route highlighted. But it does mean you need to check your career compass frequently to make sure the relationships you create will help move you in the right general direction.

Build It Before You Need It

Relationships take time to nurture. You need experience in dealing with another person so you’ll know how you can help and support each other.

This is why it’s important to build your network of contacts before you need to ask a contact for help or a referral.

It may be years before you need (or can help) someone in your network. This means it’s important to take good notes so you can later find a person’s information when you need it.

You may have heard a person described as having a “Golden Rolodex,” meaning they’ve collected contact information on a large number of valuable contacts. The use of paper-based Rolodex cards has declined in favor of contact management software (such as the contact manager in SureToMeet), but the objective is the same — you need to be able to quickly and easily retrieve contact data about the people in your network.

Food Builds Relationships

The title of Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone, might lead you to believe that taking customers to lunch is the key to networking. Yes, lunch with prospects and customers is great. But he actually focuses part of the book on a different meal — dinner.

He tells several stories about how dinner parties became a key part of his networking strategy. He explains exactly how to have a dinner party that’s not only fun for everyone, but helps you accomplish your networking goals.

This is one of the techniques I’ve gleaned from his book and put into practice. I’ve hosted a number of small dinner gatherings recently, usually at restaurants convenient for everybody in the group.

One of the purposes of the gatherings has been to introduce people who don’t know each other. It’s amazing how often people are interested in meeting new people over dinner.

Online Networking vs. Face-to-Face Networking

In the past few years a number of social networking Web sites have sprung up. LinkedIn and Ryze are probably the two best sites for online business networking. The challenge in using these sites is what to do after you’ve identified a potential contact. Do you use that Web site’s messaging system to introduce yourself? Do you contact them directly? Unfortunately for many people, these connection sites don’t work as well as users expect.

I’ve met many people online in discussion groups and forums, and have enjoyed those conversations. However, the most beneficial of those relationships included meeting them later face-to-face.

While face-to-face networking usually produces greater results than just interacting with someone online, the ease of online networking makes it a terrific technique, too.

In fact, for most people, face-to-face networking is easier to do and has greater (and more lasting) results than online networking. I’m confident that over time we’ll see more people benefit from online networking. But for now the question is how to meet people face-to-face who can become a valuable part of your contact network. This usually means attending events where you are sure to meet like-minded people — people who share your interests and passions.

In Never Eat Alone Ferrazzi details the strategies he uses to meet the people he wants to meet at events and conferences. For face-to-face networking like this, the event calendar sites (such as SureToMeet, of course) can help you find events where you can meet the people you want to meet.

Food for Thought

If you’ve gotten tired of networking because it didn’t seem to work, or if you’re looking for ways to turn your contact network into a valuable resource, pick up a copy of Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone.

It’ll provide the “why” of networking that’ll help you make better use of those “how to” networking books and articles that we’ve all collected.


Cliff Allen is the co-founder of SureToMeet.com. He is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons.

Have you ever wondered if your networking activities are as effective as they could be? I think all of us who benefit from business and social relationships occasionally ask ourselves that question.One reason to be concerned is that good networking skills —– like good athletic or business skills — require study and practice. But we need more than “how to” skills — we need to know why we’re networking. In other words, we also need a networking strategy.

A book by two expert networkers covers both the “why” and “how” of online networking. The Virtual Handshake, by David Teten and Scott Allen, is an excellent guide for using a wide range of Internet tools and techniques to expand your network of contacts.

Networking Tools, Tips & Techniques

Much of the book contains a tremendous amount of information about using social software tools, such as!

  • Social networking sites (such as LinkedIn, Ryze, Ecademy)
  • Blogs
  • E-mail
  • Instant messaging
  • Discussion forums and lists

Creating A Networking Strategy

There are many reasons to network with other people, but I usually group them into three broad categories:

  • Business networking — Includes sales, business development, partnering, career advancement, etc,
  • Social Networking — Includes activities with friends, dating, etc,
  • Civic Networking — Includes volunteering and participating in civic activities and meetings, etc.

Each area requires a different strategy so that you can nurture the right relationships for each purpose.

In Part One of their book the authors describe the “Seven Keys to a Powerful Network:”

  • Your character
  • Your competence
  • Relevance of the people you know
  • Information you have about the people in your network
  • Strength of your Relationships
  • Number of people in your network
  • Diversity of the people in your network

What’s more, the authors have several chapters of practical advice on how to improve the quality of your network in each area.

These chapters are great to review monthly or quarterly to help keep your networking activities focused and on track.

Putting It All together

The Virtual Handshake is an excellent guide for anyone who is just getting started growing their contact network.If you’ve been online a while but are not yet reading blogs and using one of the profile Web sites, you’ll pick up a number of essential techniques, too,

Speaking of blogs, the authors have a very interesting and useful blog atwww.thevirtvualhandshake.com/blog where you can also learn more about their book.

 

Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons., and is co-founder of SureToMeet.com.


 

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on ways to improve the quality and value of the relationships that we establish through networking.

John Strande of Business Evolutionist posted Top 50 things to improve relationships that go from little things we can do (e.g., smile more) to great philosophical thoughts (e.g., Relationships are journeys that unfold in magnificent ways).

With 50 tips on the list, you can focus on one each week in the coming year and still have two weeks to reflect on the following year.

Meeting people at networking events is a great way to grow your professional network of connections — plus increase the frequency of visiting with people you already know.
People who share a common interest, problem, or profession benefit from spending face-to-face time with like-minded people.
You know networking is great — however, there are times when you can’t find a well-matched networking group near you that meets your needs.
Solve this networking dilemma — when there’s no networking group near you, start one.

Benefits of starting a networking group

Starting and running a networking group is a lot of work, so you need to think about how you will not only spend the time necessary, but benefit from your time investment.
A few years ago a few friends and I started a networking group because we wanted to network with other entrepreneurs like us, and there was no group in our area. Some people start a networking group to turn it into a business, while others start a networking group that’s part of their existing business. And yes, some want the social benefits.

The three Ps of a networking group

There are the essential ingredients to a successful networking group:

  • Purpose — How will attendees benefit from attending meetings and making new contacts? Is there a “passion” that will encourage participation?
  • People — What common interest or need will hold your community together?
  • Place — Where will your networking group meet that attendees will find comfortable and convenient?
  • Promotion — How will you reach out to new people in the area who share an interest in the networking group’s purpose for meeting?

Mission and purpose

Here are several leadership questions that will help you create a clear picture of what your networking group will accomplish:

  • What interest will your attendees and members have in common?
  • How will people benefit by attending your networking events?
  • How will people meet new contacts that will lead to beneficial relationships?

There are a wide variety of networking groups, such as:

  • Business and social networking group — People who want to socialize and form relationships with others in their specific profession or industry.
  • Networking leads and referral group Salespeople and business development people who work together to help their customers.
  • Job leads group — People who share job opportunities with others who are looking for a job.

In addition to helping the people who attend your networking meetings, think about how you will benefit, too. It takes a lot of time and work to start and run a networking group, and you need to think about how you will benefit from taking on this leadership role. If you don’t receive a reasonable return on your invested time and money – chances are you will burn out before the group can reach critical mass.
Networking needs people
Every networking group needs several types of people:

  • Founders — People who lead, plan, and recruit others to attend.
  • Supporters — People who help the networking group grow and thrive by inviting their contacts to meetings, making introduction, and, in some cases, sponsor networking meetings and special events.
  • Attendees — People who attend the meetings, participate, and engage with other who are looking to network and create mutually beneficial relationships.

Networking groups need programs

Many networking groups get started with the idea that people will just naturally attend and mingle and meet people. This can work well in the early days when the founders and supporters invite people they know and who have a core shared interest in socializing.
However, as the group grows, it helps to have a “program” that attracts new people to attend. Each meeting’s program also shapes and develops the common interest of the people attending each meeting — new people know that those who share an interest in the programs topic will attend.
The typical program at most networking groups, association chapters, and other interest groups is a guest speaker from outside the group. However, there are several other types of program formats, such as:

  • Featured member presentation
  • Every attendee makes a mini-presentation
  • Every attendee participates in a “speed networking” activity where everyone meets everyone else one-to-one

Places to network

Finding a location for a new networking group to meet is usually easy, but it becomes more difficult as the group attracts more attendees.
New networking groups normally start by meeting at free locations, such as:

  • Conference room at a member’s office
  • Coffee shop
  • Restaurant
  • Lobby of a large hotel

An example of location used by a lot of small and casual networking groups is their nearest Panera Bread location. Their locations have plenty of room, good coffee and snacks, and free WiFi!
Free locations like these allow a networking group to avoid charging for attendance. Each person just pays for whatever they eat or drink.
However, as the number of people who attend increases, it will become necessary to contract with venues that handle larger meetings and events. This means that the organizers need to pay for the room, and for the food and drinks provided to attendees. And, this means that attendees need to pay to attend the networking events. Collecting fees can be handled by either having people register online before the event or pay at the door.

Promoting a networking group’s meetings

Networking groups thrive when there is a mix of regular attendees who frequently attend plus new, interested people at each event — and this takes promotion.
Some networking groups try to promote their meetings by just posting a notice on their Web event calendar and sending a personal e-mail to the people in their contact list. This doesn’t work well because it usually doesn’t reach a significant number of people who might attend, and it doesn’t remind people frequently enough to break through the clutter of media overload.
The very best way to promote a networking event to your core participants is to send several e-mails to everyone who has attended in the past. The easiest way to do this is to use an online meeting promotion and RSVP service, such as SureToMeet.
Networking groups need to attract new people to attend, participate, and become loyal members. This is effectively achieved by promoting the group’s meetings and events in several ways:

  • Referrals — Make it easy for previous attendees to invite their friends and associates.
  • Social media — Post announcements on social media sites where like-minded followers and friends can click through to the event Web page and RSVP.
  • Traditional and online media — Post announcements on Web calendar sites, and send announcements to local newspapers with calendar sections.
  • Sign-up form — Make it easy for people to subscribe to your meeting notices with an online registration form.

Planning the new networking group

Each of the start-up elements of starting and growing a networking group has a lot of details, so to make your networking debut easier for you, we’ve created an interactive planning tool for starting and running a networking group. Just start at the top level of the interactive mind map, and drill down to the specific action items and tasks that will help you create your networking group’s meetings and events.

Read more »

Before the Internet came along the business and social term “networking” meant getting together with people at an event, party, or other activity where you could meet people you didn’t already know.

Today, the term “social networking” has become popular with the buzzword creators to include online relationships with people we never meet face-to-face.
Every day each of us has a limited amount of time to grow our network. So, it’s important to decide how to balance our time between online networking and face-to-face networking opportunities.

Ever since discussion groups became popular, individuals have been forming online relationships and sharing information about experiences. Throughout the ’90s I was involved in many online discussion groups, especially those dealing with marketing.
Today, the discussion mailing lists and Web forums have been joined by blogs, project collaboration Web sites, and the social networking connection Web sites.
I’ve met a tremendous number of people online over the past 15 years. What has surprised me is that it’s the people I have also meet face-to-face who have become part of my network of long-term relationships.

Why is it that e-mail and other online communications cannot replace face-to-face interaction for creating strong, long-term relationships?

It seems that as beneficial as online relationships are, sharing information about experiences is not the same as actually sharing the experience face-to-face with another person.

Every meeting, event, or group gathering is networking opportunity where you might meet several interesting people.
But, if you’ve been out networking, you know how hard it is to find the people who are more than interesting contacts — the people who become great business partners, friends, or more.

Introductions make networking more productive

One way to make networking easier is to be introduced to just the right person by someone with a large network of people.

Mary Kurek, a professional networker who seeks out the best connections for her clients, is sharing her network at movie, gaming and other creative conferences .

Connectors like Mary provide a great service by making networking more productive and fun.

You can be a connector, too

No matter how many people are in your network, you can start a networking group and introduce people to each other, too.

Gather people together and introduce them to each other. Encourage them to continue their conversation in person or on the phone (or Skype) — and to plan something they can work on together.
And, if you want to place an order for quality connections, contact Mary.
By taking the lead in hosting a networking event and helping people get connected, Mary is deinately a 10.

People attend meeting and events over and over again because they feel they receive value from attending each time. Once they attend a few meetings and don’t feel that they benefited they quit attending.
STM-participation-overview-level-a.jpg
It’s no secret that we all act that way. What seems to be a secret to many groups and organizations is how to deliver the “value” that members and volunteers are seeking.

During her Lazy Leader Road Show, Cynthia D’Amour shared how to attract (and retain) members by appealing to their “hot buttons.” People who attend meetings are looking for some combination of these attributes:

  • Personal/professional development
  • Make a difference
  • Be part of a community

Every organization is different, so each organization’s members look for different combinations of these attributes.

Chapters of professional organizations rely more on professional development than a business networking mixer group. But, both types of organizations have the same challenge — to deliver the “value” that meets the needs of members in these three areas.

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