Networking and What Moves the Needle

Rubik's Cube

There are two resources available time and money to accomplish all your objectives quickly.

 

So, you built a better mousetrap? Now what? Part 6

By now, you have done the following:

  • Determined your actual business structure (revenues, sources of revenue)
  • Established a goal for the following year (existing and new sources of revenue)
  • Studied the 7 actions you can follow: sell, resell, retain, cross-sell, upsell, refer and retarget.
  • Created a strategy for each revenue stream

Now what?

Now you have a Rubik’s Cube containing:

  1. Revenue streams (e.g, medium sized companies, small companies, rich clients…)
  2. Strategies: Retention campaigns for some, referral campaigns for others, cross-sell and upsell efforts for others.
  3. Tools you can use to achieve your objectives for each of the combinations.

The logical next step is to figure out which tools are available to you.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Or, as the well-known phrase goes: objectives without resources are just dreams.

So there are two resources available to you: time and money. If you don’t have a lot of time to get results, you will need money to accomplish all your objectives quickly. If you don’t have money, then you will need a lot of time. But it is inescapable, one way or another you will need resources.

Based on this, we can do a pre-selection of tools that are available to you:

So, what works and doesn’t work in generating business?

In general, every single medium works. It is the message that makes a difference and I’ve written about that often. However, certain communications have more influence over purchasing decisions than others.

Here’s a chart put together by Deloitte:

Nielsen has a more detailed chart:

A common thread and a first step

The common thread to these charts is that, at the very top, personal recommendations work. So, a good first step for a small or medium sized business is to join a local networking group to begin getting personal recommendations.

There are probably half a dozen networking groups where you live, so this should be an easy first step and, as with any tool, it is better to experiment, test and evaluate before making a decision.

The two most famous networking groups are BNI (Business Networking International, at www.bni.com) and Meetup (at www.meetup.com)

Both groups are very different in outlook and structure and have their pros and cons.

BNI

At the core, BNI offers a personal, structured networking group in your area with “category exclusivity” and forced referrals. The emphasis on BNI is not to get referrals IN the group, but to get group members to refer any opportunity to you. As such, there is a rule at BNI that members MUST refer opportunities to members in the group first. BNI seems to work really well for categories that are in the service category and really depend on leads: personal banking, real estate, CPA, etc.

  • Personal: The seat is given to a person, not a company. If the person changes companies that re in the same category, the seat is still guaranteed.
  • Structured: Groups are formed with unique names, a leadership structure and meet weekly. These weekly meetings are always on the same day of the week and attendance is required (there is a limited number of absences allowed before a seat is given away).
  • Category Exclusivity: Only one person per category, and, since the seat is given to a person, the category exclusivity remains as long as the person remains in the category (e.g., decorator).

Pros:

  • Structured: groups are consistent, you see the same people every week and get to know them (and them you) better, so referrals are sincere.
  • Very focused on business: there is an emphasis on generating business and referrals and both are tracked weekly. A large part of the meeting is discussing who has referred what to whom, the dollar value and any other similar business transactions.
  • Emphasis on growth of the group: group leaders are expected to try to enlarge the group to include a wide range of categories in order to multiply referrals.
  • Company or area-wide activities: there are regular huge get-togethers where many groups mingle, exchange business cards and get to know groups and people outside of their area.
  • Business-like: you are supposed to have your company’s “story” down pat, rehearse for the “commercials” or short blurbs given every week, dress business-like and in general, everyone behaves in a very corporate way.
  • Limited: the meetings last 60 to 90 minutes and they last PRECISELY the 60 to 90 minutes. The emphasis is, again, on business-like behavior.
  • Every week all of the business cards of every member are passed around, so that you can build a database of the entire assembly and have them as reference for referrals; emails, phones, etc., are also published regularly in Excel format.
  • There is a lot of company assistance on their website, showing small and medium-sized businesses how to generate more leads, network, etc.
  • Seats do generate business for their categories, typically thousands a year for some of the right categories.

Cons:

  • Breakfasts are early: typically, 7:30 am and you are expected to show up 30 minutes before the meeting to network with the group.
  • It has a cost: $25/week for the breakfast and you can expect to spend a few hundred dollars a year in fees, required courses and mailing invitations once a year in the membership drive.
  • Their “commercial” structure is really unwieldy: each member is supposed to give a :30 to :60 commercial every week. This doesn’t allow much explaining about your business (and that’s why you are supposed to show up 30 minutes before) and it can get really really boring.
  • It can be hard to find a group with your specialty or category open. Because BNI works really well for some professions (e.g., real estate, lawyers, CPA’s and similar) not only are categories subdivided into many (e.g., Wealth-relationship Bankers vs. Retail Bankers), seats are also in high demand.
  • Members often get hyper-protective. For example, if, during the annual membership drive you invite a financial planner to your group so he can see BNI up close and perhaps get him enthusiastic enough to join (another group) the financial planner in your group is 99% guaranteed to go ballistic over that. This leads to a lot of drama during that membership drive.
  • Results can be slow; most people inside BNI say that you need to give it anywhere from 6 to 9 months before you start seeing steady results.
  • It is time consuming; you are supposed to have regular “one on ones” with members where you are supposed to meet during regular business hours in order to get to know the other person better –and facilitate referrals.

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