Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Earning Referrals

Ask businesses how they get most of their new leads and best prospects and most will usually reply 'referrals and recommendations'. Ask them what strategy they have to maximise the flow of this new business and many will look at you blankly.

Over the years I have met many business people who will spend time and money developing marketing strategies incorporating PR, advertising, cold calling, exhibiting and other routes to market, yet leave referral generation to chance. The common response is "I let my customers refer me".

In his recent book, Truth or Delusion, Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, says,

"On several occasions, my coauthors and I discussed the point that I made in my book, The World's Best Known Marketing Secret, about how people were under the delusion that good customer service alone was enough to enable them to build their business through word of mouth. We shared stories about people we'd met over the years who had gone out of business waiting for good word of mouth to rescue them."

Dr. Misner discusses how good customer service is a prerequisite, we expect it. People are far more inclined to talk about bad news than good. Just look at the front pages of the newspapers most days of the week if you don't believe me.

It is not enough just to provide a good service and expect referrals. How many times do you attend a restaurant, eat good food, enjoy good service and then tell all of your friends about it? Compare that to the amount of times you have a bad experience, with poor food and rude service. You want to tell everyone not to go to that restaurant. Don't you?

Good service is expected when we buy something. That doesn't give us something to talk about. The fact is, if we want people to be our Champions, to advocate us to other people, we need to go that bit further.

This chart, used by the CEO expert Roger Harrop during a recent presentation I attended, illustrates this perfectly:

If you fail to meet people's expectations and they are dissatisfied with your product or service, as you would expect, they will leave you. If you meet their expectations and they are satisfied, that is fine but they are still prey to other people making better offer. To keep people buying from you, they either need to be very satisfied or you have to exceed expectations. But to make them Champions, you need to achieve both. Or as I put it, substantially exceed their expectations.

Give people a story to tell and you will win referrals. Just don't expect people to refer you simply because they are happy to buy from you.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Inspiring Excellence

I have recently become involved with a really exciting new business called AchieveTODAY which specialises in Personal Development for Young Professionals.

AchieveTODAY are hosting their first event in July of this year. It is their aim to inspire 18-30 year olds to excel beyond their expectation in thier choosen careers and personal lives.

Although the event hasn't been officially announced yet, there are a number resources available for people to download.

If you, or people you know, would be interested, please visit www.Student-Seminars.com

There are also a number of great articles on the AchieveTODAY website.

If you have friends, sons, daughters etc that spend a lot of time online, AchieveTODAY would be really grateful if you could ask them to spread the word about this website. They can do this by responding to people's blog comments that are related to the subject of the audios and books.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fancy a chat about networking?

Eager to engage with new technology, I have just established a group on the social network Facebook for people to discuss their networking and public speaking challenges, ideas and tips.

Please come and join the '...and Death Came Third!' Networking and Speaking in Public group and share your stories and questions.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Little Light Relief - Life after Death by Powerpoint

Many thanks to Alan Stevens, the Media Coach, for highlighting this in his excellent newsletter.

Life After Death by PowerPoint

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Caught in the Web - Is Business Embracing Social Media?

“Every day there’s a new topic that someone wants to talk about and be part of.”
Jeff Schick, vp social computing software, IBM Corporation

Ecademy, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Xing, Ryze. For many of us, the names in this list will be increasingly familiar but they are only the tip of the iceberg. While social networking technology has been used by a number of businesses for the best part of the last decade, the rise in its popularity over the last two years has been tremendous. From teenagers keeping in touch with their school and university friends to their parents boosting their business profile, everyone is joining the social networking revolution.

Where is this ‘revolution’ leading? I will discuss the benefits to the younger ‘MySpace Generation’ in the next in this series of blogs, and will also look at the social benefits in a future article; but what about the benefits to the business community?

In my recent interview with Jeff Schick we looked at how his business has embraced social networking to help make their internal communication and systems more effective.

It is becoming more apparent that IBM is not on its own. A March 2007 survey of corporates for Melcrum, a communications industry researcher, showed that big business is moving quickly towards fully embracing social media. 52% of respondents anticipated raising their social media budgets over the next twelve months, while 55% are already using blogs or plan to do so in the next year.

Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and President of Sun Microsystems, has a very popular blog that was used during his transition into the CEO role, enabling employees across the organisation to get to know him better, more quickly than through traditional media.

Melcrum’s Managing Director, Robin Crumby, points to the influence of the social networks in encouraging the corporates. “Big business has taken note of the popularity of sites like MySpace, YouTube and Bebo and is beginning to figure out how to integrate the same functionality and networking tools with their corporate intranets.”

Despite this encouraging trend, larger business still has some catching up to do. According to a recent survey carried out by The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research, the US’s fastest-growing private companies are using social media, including blogs, social networking and podcasting, at a rate more than twice that of Fortune 500 companies.

Greg Verdino, VP of emerging channels at Digitas believes that businesses of all sizes need to focus on how to use this media effectively. “Every company needs to have a deliberate social-media strategy. These venues — blogs, podcasts, and all the other next big-thing things — are not something to be treated as one-off pilot projects. They should be considered as part of a holistic approach, one that seeks first to understand how the individuals that make up a company’s market are using the new media and then to understand what benefits can be reaped by the company from using some or all of them.”

In our conversation, Jeff Schick looked more at the holistic approach to social media that companies can take.

“I think that, with the diversity of social networks that exist today, an organisation that deploys a social network could have a zone that’s focused on the internal aspects of the company, a zone that’s focused on the way it may interact with its partners and contractors and a zone which allows them to be the social network and its public face to its current clients and new opportunities.

“There’s a concept of creating federated social networks that I think is a very important idea that I’m working on currently. I’m going to help drive standardisation within the people that build capabilities in the social software space.”

As more businesses encourage their employees to use online communities, there are bound to be fears that they will prove to be a distraction or could affect a business’s reputation if abused. Many companies, such as IBM and the BBC, recognise this and, rather than ban the use of social networks, they have very clear guidelines on what is permissible and what isn’t.

Jeff Schick doesn’t share such concerns. “I would tell you,” said Jeff, “that in the clients that we’ve worked with to date, as well as what we’ve seen within IBM, I think that we see the exact opposite.

“While a person might be interrupted because they are a recognised expert in a certain particular area, when there is information required by another individual in the company, the efficiency and productivity involved in building that network and that fabric of interaction provides a more efficient and productive model for people to do their work. The organisation is improved holistically, by matching people who know to people who need to know.”

Graham Jones, a UK based Internet Psychologist, feels that businesses need to put aside their reservations and embrace the new wave of web technology.

“Many businesses see things like social networks as a technological fix; or they reckon that a social network is merely a fad, or passing phase. Hence they don’t put in the effort to ensuring that their firms benefit.

“What’s needed is to forget that the social networks use technology; they are, in fact, merely an extension of normal human behaviour. As such, they are one of the most natural forms of Internet technology we have.

“For that reason alone, businesses need to grasp social networks with both hands because if they don’t, employees and customers alike will walk away, going towards online businesses that use technology that behaves more naturally – i.e. they use social networks.”

So, will the current growth of social networks continue in the same way? As the big organisations start to stamp their mark on the market, industry as a whole is likely to follow; but the expectation is that we will continue to see a host of options within social media. Something which is still looked upon with cynicism by many in business will soon become the norm.

Jeff Schick doesn’t see an end to people starting their own networks but does see more standardisation at the corporate end. “There are social networks that span multiple communities of interest and there are social networks that span a single community of interest. You’ll not stop communities or people who are interested in a certain focus area from forming.

“What I think will happen is that the companies offering those capabilities might consolidate and a set of best practices on the tools that are available may become apparent. Surely they’ll be a level of interoperability and standardisation that evolves between them.

“But I look at the number of communities of interest and you know that every day there’s a new topic that someone wants to talk about and be part of. “

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Networked Out?

It feels as though I am in the middle of a networking marathon at the moment. Ten events in seven working days just feels like networking overkill, even for me.

I didn't plan it that way, and I certainly wouldn't recommend this level of networking activity to anyone. Although I am making some fantastic new connections and new opportunities are opening up for me on a daily basis, I am struggling to find the time to follow up with my contacts, arrange meetings with people I have just met and keep up with emails, paperwork and this blog.

The fact is, you can simply overnetwork. There are so many opportunities to get out and meet new people you have to be selective and pick the right ones for you. And learn to say 'no'.

I am learning, I promise! I have said no to three events already this week. And that's lucky as they would probably have tipped me over the edge. As I write this blog alone, I could be sitting in two different breakfast meetings!

So the lesson? Be selective, be patient (if you can't go this month, you can always attend next time) and if you do go to a lot of events, make sure that you enjoy them. That way, at least you can keep your sanity!