Monday, February 26, 2007

How Important is 'USP' in the Relationship Economy?

Twice in the last fortnight I have been asked by people how they get across their 'Unique Selling Proposition' to people they meet at networking events.

We have been told by marketing experts for many years how important it is to have a 'USP'. What is it that makes us different from our competitors? Why should people choose us and not someone else?

There is no doubt that it remains important for businesses to have a clear understanding of what their strengths are and where they stand out from the crowd. I am not so sure, however, quite how relevant this is in a networking environment. After all, we are also continually reminded that 'people buy people'.

At a networking event, or as part of a networking group, you will benefit much more by getting to know people and building a relationship that you ever will by creating the perfect marketing message that highlights your USP. More importantly than people buying people, people refer people they know, like and trust.

Yes, once people know, like and trust you, you want to build their understanding of your business so that they are in a better position to refer you. At that point a strong knowledge of your strengths in the market place are important. You can also use your USP to help you focus people on who you want to speak to, in other words, who in particular needs what you are best placed to provide?

In other words, as the relationship develops you can educate people about your USPs. However, the relationship must come first.

Yesterday I was talking about the first person to raise this question with me. Try as I might, I couldn't remember her USP. But I remember her.

Return on Relationships

There is an excellent series of blogs currently being posted on Ecademy by Rory Murray. The series is based on the concept of 'Return on Relationships' (ROR) and looks at how you can demonstrate value from networking and relationship building activities.

You can see the blogs here.

One of Rory's recent blogs, about the power of investing in goodwill and seeing the dividents from those relationships struck a very personal chord. Both last year, when my last book was launched, and the last month following my departure from Business Referral Exchange, have seen me reaping the dividends from relationship building over the last few years.

You can read my thoughts on Rory's post here.

(You may need to be an Ecademy member to read these posts. If you have any problems, please let me know at

Friday, February 23, 2007

Networking with FOCUS - The Bottom Line

Networking with FOCUS


In my last FOCUS blog, I asked the question ‘why did you join the Chamber?’ I believe that networks can produce much more effective results if you focus on what you are looking to achieve from membership.

To make the most of networking, treat the cost as a business investment, not a club membership. Like any investment, such as a marketing campaign or new technology, it’s important to know what the return is going to be and to map out a strategy to get results.

By focussing on a financial return, you are more likely to take the steps necessary to achieve it. By extension, you are far more likely to meet, and exceed, that return.

Many people initially join networking groups with the view to just getting back their membership fee. As a result, the business they ask for tends to be quite small, and goals are unambitious.

While I was MD of BRE Networking, we introduced training based on financial targets. Groups saw a dramatic change in the business asked for, and won. As a result, one member, previously looking for business worth between £250 and £1000, began asking for contracts worth in excess of £200,000 and was able to substantially increase their goal for the year..

Businesses who join networking groups without a clear vision of what they want to achieve frequently fail to see value for their membership. Focus on a clear financial return and make networking pay.

Next time... Beyond Money

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Being Noticed

I am always encouraging people to be as specific as possible about what they want so that people can help them. And yet we are so scared to do so.

I have just met with a friend of mine who is currently looking for a new job. A few weeks ago I asked him what he did. He told me he was a "Project Manager". I asked him what industry he worked in and he said "any".

He couldn't understand it when I laughed!

I encouraged him to tailor his CV to put specific industries in so that people would notice him. He changed his CV to say "Project Manager - Engineering". He immediately noticed that the number of hits on his CV on online job boards doubled and he is now due to go for a third interview next week.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Networking with FOCUS - Introduction

Are you a member of any networking groups? Why did you join them? What attracted you to your first meeting?

It may be you felt it was the right thing to do in terms of your business. Perhaps the mix of people felt right. Maybe you thought you would find your customers there.

Broadening the picture, many people join networking groups, whether Chambers, online networks or one of many other organisations, for two main reasons.

The most common reason people offer for joining networks is that they have been invited along by a trusted colleague who promised great things for their business as a result. Alternatively, they have heard so much about the importance of ‘networking’ that they have done some research and gone along to a local meeting.

Once at the meeting, if it ‘feels right’ and the organisation seems to fit the aims of the business, they may well join.

Is this the best way to select a network? Perhaps not. Over the next few weeks, I would like to share with you some ideas about how to ‘FOCUS’ your networking and ensure that the results you achieve are more targeted and, therefore, exceed existing expectations.

We will look at the bottom line benefits for your business, together with the advantages you can gain in terms of personal development and in other areas. In addition, we will discuss the problems of balancing the various opportunities available and the importance of helping others to help you. Finally we will look at how it all fits together.

Next time... The Bottom Line

Friday, February 02, 2007

The 51-51 Equation

I recently met a very interesting woman, Servane Mouazan, who describes herself as a social entrepreneur and social innovation coach.

Servane has a theory about networking which she calls 'The 51-51 Equation'. Servane describes this as a way to measure and value your connections and your networking standards. Relationships which follow Servane's equation should result in benefits for both parties.

The principle expressed by Servane is nothing new, but the equation is a very nice way of expressing the importance of the old adage of going the extra mile. If both parties in an interaction take one more step than that expected of them, the results will be a much stronger relationship and greater levels of trust and rapport.

Servane describes the simple steps you can take to go beyond a 'flat 50%-50%'. Simple things such as recommending someone else to attend an event when you can't; prompting people who are explaining their business to you at speed networking by asking the right questions or helping the host clear up at the end of networking events. As Servane puts it, 'this is the moment when secrets are revealed!'.

Many people now recognise that networking effectively means much more than just collecting business cards and getting sales. The power of networks to provide support, advice and knowledge to its members is of increasing importance to many business people. By offering such support, you raise your profile and reputation in your network and naturally draw people to you.

The 51-51 equation is about going beyond what is expected and into the realms where you stand out from others and connect on a much deeper level.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Smirting .... it's on its way!

While I was in the Outer Hebrides over Christmas, I was told about an unexpected side effect of the recent smoking ban in public places.

With the ban, due to take effect in England in July this year, now in place in pubs across Scotland, smokers are forced outdoors if they want to enjoy a quick puff during the evening's festivities. Naturally, this gives them the opportunity to talk to people they might not otherwise have approached when out for a social drink with friends.

As a result of this, a new phenomenon has been born. Christened 'Smirting' (a cross between smoking and flirting), new relationships are being forged over a quick puff.

Maybe this is more proof that where there's smoke, there's fire!