12 Benefits of Starting Your Own Networking Group.

building relationships, Building trust, Business-building, Generating referrals, Job or career search, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, Networking groups No Comments

You’re sick and tired of attending events where others run the show. You’ve tried the pay-for-play referral groups around town and have found them to be more about the few who run the show than about helping you achieve more success.

How can you use networking as a business or career growth strategy that works for you? It’s simple: start your own group. Here’s a dozen reasons why this can be a huge step in accelerating your results.

1. Increase your business. The simple fact of bringing together a number of prospects, be they colleagues or clients, will offer you opportunity to exponentially generate more revenues by being in front of more people at one time.

2. Get others to refer you business. When you bring others together, they appreciate your efforts. They will want to return the favor you have done for them. One of the ways they will do this is by recommending you to others.

3. Position yourself as a leader. Acting as the catalyst in creating the group, you position yourself as a leader. The members of the group automatically respect you and have a higher level of trust in you.

4. Increase your value to others. When the members of your group come together, they will meet new contacts and make new friends. They will associate these great feelings with you and feel you have brought them value.

5. Improve the perception of your professionalism. Your efforts in creating and managing the group will have others perceive you differently. You will be seen as a qualified professional who cares about others.

6. Build trust in others more quickly. Your position as a leader brings with it a number of unconscious qualities. One of the most powerful is trust. Others will trust you more as you contribute to their lives and their success.

7. Have others better realize your level of expertise about your product or service. In leading your group, you will cause others to become more aware of your expertise. This realization will extend to their perception of your products and services. They will see them differently just as they see you differently.

8. Better leverage existing relationships. Bringing together existing contacts, colleagues and clients acts as a leverage factor and heightens feelings of value and service about you. They will then go out of their way to be of service to you in return.

9. More quickly leverage new relationships. As you offer new contacts the opportunity to participate in your group, they will feel more trustworthy and indebted. This is one of the most powerful ways to build relationships.

10. Market yourself to more people in a shorter period of time. As members join and bring their colleagues and contacts into the group, you will find that you are, by default, marketing to more people with one activity.

11. Find more ways to help others. As a result of interacting with more people within the group, you will have more options available to help others. You will have access to more resources, support and opportunities.

12. Develop a cost-effective strategy to grow your business. Starting your group will require an initial investment. Once in motion, it will act as an on-going marketing vehicle that gives you access to an on-going stream of prospects.

Is this an option that could work for you? I’ve written a 16-page Executive Overview of everything you need to know to successfully start and run a networking group. Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com and I’ll send you a complimentary copy.


Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To find out more about him or have him share his expertise at your next meeting or conference visit www.NetworkingForResults.com.

7 Secret Chamber of Commerce Member Success Strategies

building relationships, Business-building, Generating referrals, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, Networking groups No Comments

Your annual Chamber of Commerce membership renewal notice has just arrived and you’re not sure whether you should renew. Is it really worth the time and effort?

Below are the seven strategies I’ve implemented over and over to drive my business results, along with specific information and examples of how they worked.

1.Embrace the Chamber of Commerce as a primary marketing strategy.

Your Chamber of Commerce membership includes a myriad of opportunities and options to attract new clients, expand your visibility and build your business. Treat it as a marketing strategy and commit yourself to it as a long term investment.

CASE STUDY: In the early days of my Chamber of Commerce membership, I took a haphazard approach to attending Chamber events and being active in the Chamber network.

In my second year, I made a conscious effort to become more involved and more active. The by-product of this decision and its activity was a surge in contacts, leads and client opportunities. I was amazed the marketing options that appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, once I became aware of the Chamber network and its inner workings.

Between year three and year five, I became a household name in the Chamber community and the local business community. The quality and quantity of opportunities increased until I was invited to be on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. This offered visibility on an entirely new level and served to add to both my professional and personal credibility.

The ultimate payoff of my Chamber of Commerce membership strategy came when, in 2006, I was asked to be the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, one of the oldest and most respected Chambers in Canada. Today, more than a dozen years after my first Chamber of Commerce event, I am still reaping the rewards of signing up for that first event through the Chamber network I am still a part of. This story is not an advertisement that you should aspire to become the Chamber of Commerce Chair, rather it is proof that you can.

2. Attend events.

If you take nothing else from this resource than this point and put it into practice, you will recoup your investment ten-fold. There is no simpler, nor more effective, strategy to grow your business than to get out into the business community and connect with other professionals and entrepreneurs.

There is no more credible, nor comprehensive, business network than the Chamber of Commerce. It has the potential to act as the direct, and indirect, vehicle to contacts, clients, advocates, partners and suppliers. There are two requirements to converting this resource into results: persistence and consistency. You must be willing to make a one-to-three year commitment to attending Chamber events and using these as the basis to build productive and profitable relationships.

CASE STUDY: Networking is the core of my business expertise. Consequently, the Chamber of Commerce appeared to be the ideal resource to promote my services and expertise. Yet, like you, I didn’t maximize its value until I made it my primary external marketing strategy, using Chamber events as the basis for igniting, then building relationships.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see how my commitment to attending events on an on-going basis acted as the basis for much, if not most, of my later success. The consistent application of this simple strategy allowed me to continually grow my base of prospects and clients, increase my visibility and build a level of market credibility I would never have otherwise achieved in so short a time.

Participation in the first few events was a little uncomfortable. Attending any event where you know few people will always be that way. Once I fought through that early anxiety and connected with a few other Chamber members, the events quickly became something I looked forward to, where I would re-connect with colleagues and professionals I respected, many of whom became clients or referrals sources.

To this day, I still make attending Chamber of Commerce events a priority in my calendar. I recommend it to you as the first (if not the only) tactic to put into action as a result of reading this document. I know it has worked for me.

3. Build relationships.

Success in business and in life is all about relationships. Investing in a Chamber of Commerce membership opens the door to success and supplies the resources to get there. Your mission is to leverage them into clients, referrals and results. Relationships are the secret key to achieving all of these. Relationship-building is, by its very nature, a long term process. Accept this reality and incorporate it into your Chamber of Commerce strategy. Develop the discipline of using Chamber events to connect, then build trust and deepen relationships by supplying value as the basis for doing business. This little-used strategy will deliver optimal results.

CASE STUDY: My networking philosophy and methodology has been to meet fewer people at events, and use these interactions as launch pads to building relationships. My goal at any event is the same: connect with no more than two or three new contacts. I focus primarily on getting to know them, as I would when meeting someone at a family gathering, as opposed to “qualifying” them as business prospects. I have found that, by taking this tack, I am perceived as more professional and can discover more and better information. By intensifying the personal value of this meeting, I heighten the chances of my conversation partner wanting to meet with me again.

Relationships require investment, take time and must be nurtured. I take full and complete responsibility for all three. I am prepared to follow up within 48 hours of an initial contact to create a one-on-one meeting, so I can get even more insight into this person’s issues and needs. I use this as an opportunity to find a way to add value to them and/or their life, without expectation of reward. I am prepared to continue this strategy for up to 90 days. By this time, the other person has seen such value she/he will agree to do business with me, act as an advocate on my behalf or she/he has discovered some way for us to work together.

I can supply any number of specific results by using this “delayed gratification” formula: Fortune 500 clients for my corporate training sessions and consulting work, conference speaking engagements (in Hawaii no less), product purchases or marketing opportunities, some of which I had never dreamed of. The exponential bonus of my philosophy is that these clients and advocates continue to work on my behalf for months and years to come. Isn’t this the kind of result you want and need from your Chamber of Commerce investment?

4. Be strategic.

There is no conceivable way you can connect directly, or build solid relationships with, every Chamber of Commerce member. There simply isn’t enough time. But not all Chamber members are created equal. Some of them, because of their company characteristics, business situation or market sector, hold more potential.

It’s important and necessary that you prioritize connecting with these higher-value prospects and fostering relationships with them, if you are to maximize your Chamber of Commerce investment and involvement.

CASE STUDY: I spent my first year as a Chamber of Commerce member attending events and meeting other business professionals. When I reviewed my results after twelve months, I was quite disappointed to realize I hadn’t confirmed one client and seriously considered not renewing my membership.

I decided to invest in the Chamber for one more year, with the vow to be more strategic in both my approach and my activity. As a first step, I went through the member directory and highlighted the companies I felt were my best prospects. That way, I could zero in on connecting with these higher-value contacts at events, knowing who I wanted to meet. Next, I reviewed the list of events and prioritized events with topics or timing these companies and individuals would attend. These two strategies accelerated my chances of meeting more and better prospects and I found I had much better success. In addition, I invested time and effort in meeting and building relationships with a number of seasoned Chamber members and leaders, who were happy to introduce me to their network of contacts, both inside and outside the Chamber of Commerce.

By the end of my second year, I had developed a list of clients that acted as the foundation for increasing both my revenues and my visibility in the local marketplace. Being strategic had an exponential effect in driving my results, relationships and revenues.

5. Contribute value to other members.

Membership is a two-edged sword. Not only does becoming part of the Chamber of Commerce allow access to a network of prospects and professional services, it also holds the opportunity to showcase your talents and skills by sharing value. This can be accomplished by being of service to members on a one-to-one basis, but there is another option that holds much more potential: acting as a Chamber resource. In this capacity, you will be endorsed as more credible and competent. Also, you will reach more members faster. Read the following story to find out how.

CASE STUDY: Recognizing that one of the stated benefits of Chamber of Commerce membership was networking, I approached the Executive Director with the idea of delivering a series of short networking skills workshops for members. My intent was to help Chamber members network more effectively as I showcased my value in this area.

I prepared a business case that demonstrated how this initiative would benefit members and the Chamber in a number of ways: the sessions would be offered to all members at a reduced rate, profit shared with the Chamber. In addition, new members, or members renewing their membership, would be offered a free seat. All in all, it was a package that would greatly benefit both the Chamber and its members. The proposal was accepted and I was seen as a contributor to the Chamber’s success.

Some of my colleagues saw this and questioned my sanity in offering so much value for little, or seemingly no, return. Let’s take a closer look at the entire program and what it contributed to my business. The sessions were co-sponsored, meaning that I received an endorsement as a trusted Chamber resource. They were advertised multiple times to the entire Chamber of Commerce database, supplying me huge marketing leverage I never could have managed on my own. The reduced-rate sessions supplied enough revenue to offset costs and a small profit.

My biggest payoff was from the free seats allocated to new members or member renewals. Every one of these professionals got the chance to experience my value. The short duration of the program meant that many wanted to know more. I can directly attribute two contracts with national corporations as a result of this unique Chamber of Commerce member program.

6. Contribute to the Chamber of Commerce financial success.

Almost all member-based organizations, and especially Chambers of Commerce, have, as part of their business model, a two-pronged approach. The first is dependent on member dues, and is directly related to the on-going need to recruit and retain members. Member revenues are the lifeblood of the organization’s existence and financial health. This will always be a priority. The second is non-member revenues. These are revenues that come through events, promotional or sponsorship opportunities.

Any member contributing to strengthening these areas will be seen as more valuable. This can act as a huge opportunity to gaining more leverage from your Chamber of Commerce membership.

CASE STUDY: As part of my involvement with the Chamber of Commerce, I became aware of the intense value that member growth and retention play in the Chamber’s on-going success. I decided to make a one-year personal commitment to impact this important area. The strategy I used was to invite a non-member to every Chamber event. Yes, it cost me money in additional event fees, but every person I invited was very appreciative.

It proved to be an excellent marketing strategy, as they often connected with business prospects and saw me as the source of their good fortune. In addition, many, if not most, of my guests, joined the Chamber as a result of their experience. The unexpected payoff of this commitment was that, unbeknownst to me, the Chamber was running a member referral contest that year.

Because of my referral results and as winner of the referral drive, I was invited to golf with the Chamber President and Chair, paving the way to be invited to be part of the Chamber Board of Directors. The following year, I lead a Chamber fundraising project that brought the Disney Professional Development Program to our city and contributed unplanned revenues to the Chamber and increased my position as contributor to the Chamber’s financial success.

The moral of this story is that any effort that positively impacts the financial stability of the Chamber will supply you with great leverage and/or credibility in the Chamber and with other members.

7. Take on a leadership role

The Chamber of Commerce is a community of business people working to help one another succeed. As such, it is a member-led and member-driven organization. This reality accepts the fact that membership success links opportunity with obligation. There is no more effective strategy for increasing professional or personal visibility, accelerating trust or creating an enhanced profile than to take on a leadership role. The caveat here is to ensure that the leadership role is aligned to the professional capacity you want to promote. The exponential bonus of this investment is that members will feel they have received something from you and feel you are more professional, trustworthy and competent.

CASE STUDY: In my second year as a Chamber of Commerce member, I decided I wanted to increase my profile. I looked for a Chamber role that would allow me to showcase my area of expertise and supply additional visibility. I met with the Chamber President who suggested I join the membership committee. This proved an ideal opportunity for me to demonstrate how my experience and expertise could enhance this high-need Chamber area. I worked with Chamber staff to increase their networking and business development skills. I delivered networking workshops for members to help them get more value from Chamber activities. I chaired the Ambassador Corps, a unique Chamber resource that focuses on building relationships with new members.

As a result of my increased profile, I was invited to be on the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce. Yes, this required additional time and effort, but the payoff was that I was associated with many of the most successful and professional companies in our region, while I got the chance to build relationships with high-profile entrepreneurs and corporate professionals. The end result was a number of contracts that I would never have had access to without this investment and involvement.

And finally, I was selected to be the 2006 Chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. What an honor! Add to this the press I received in our local newspaper and the profile it gave me in our community. Today, years removed from this portfolio, I am still reaping the rewards in credibility and respect.

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Michael Hughes is known as Canada’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience.

5 Secret Network Laws That Drive Networking Results

building relationships, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, Networking groups No Comments

Networks are all around us. They pervade our world and represent one of our most powerful and practical resources. Want to get anywhere in the world? Simply tap into the network of airlines and airports. Want to get electricity to your cottage? Just connect to the electrical network that feeds your area.

Research confirms that universal principles, or “Network Laws”, govern all networks, including social (i.e. people) networks. These fundamental laws apply to any and all networks, and they represent both opportunity and potential when used effectively. Here are five Network Laws that you can leverage to drive your networking results.

1. The Connectivity Principle

Every link in a network, especially social networks, is automatically connected to all other links by virtue of the network itself.

This Network Law states that you have access to everything you want and need by virtue of the network you have, or the network have access to. It is a reminder that all networks are connected (think six degrees of separation or, better yet, six degrees of Kevin Bacon).

There are two keys to leveraging this Network Law: be crystal clear about what it is you want or need; and communicate it consistently to your network. In short, leveraging this law requires clarity and consistency. But, above all, it requires patience because your request needs to travel across networks.

2. The Random Growth Principle

Networks, especially social networks, are in a continuous pattern of random growth.

Networks, by their very nature, must grow or die. Your social network is growing daily. We humans are social creatures and are constantly connecting with others. Every one of these new connections represents opportunity and potential.

The universe is continually bringing you all the resources you need to be happy and successful. The simple strategy of being open and aware of your network’s growth and that no connection is accidental or incidental is a huge paradigm shift that can have great impact on your success and results.

3. The Strength in Weak Ties Principle

New network connections, especially in social networks, have more potential to impact results than existing ones.

New contacts are an opportunity to access other networks, as well as to exponentially expand your base of relationships and resources. The inherent potential in a new contact is that she/he sees you in the context of the new connection, unencumbered by past associations or affiliations.

Your natural human tendency is to shy away from new contacts and stay within your comfort zone, especially when you don’t feel pressured to grow your resource base. Fight this tendency and create a strategy of consistently identifying and accessing new networks to maximize this Law.

4. The Preferred Attachment Principle

Some network connections, and especially so in social networks, have far greater impact within a network due to their maturity, positioning or circumstances.

Not all relationships in a network are created equal. Some contacts can have a dramatic impact on results because of their situation, seniority, or importance. The real life applicable of this Law is that you will generally get 90% of your results from about 10% of your network.

Think, for a moment, of relationships as airports. Some airports are major connection hubs within the air transport system because of their geographic positioning, size, or access to resources. It’s the same with relationships. A select few relationships, either within your network or in a particular network, have the capacity to drive your desired results.

Develop the discipline of identifying the key connections within a network and cultivating relationships with them. They are the individuals who have the most potential to influence, accelerate, and impact results. Be strategic and prioritize your time, energy, and resources towards the high-value network connections.

5. The Natural Growth Principle

Networks, and especially relationships that are the core of a social network, follow the natural evolution process: Slow start, rapid growth and steady decline.

The law of natural growth is simple, balanced, and universal. A farmer must first invest in buying seeds, plant the crop, till the soil, and wait patiently; all the while watering, weeding, and nurturing without guarantee of success. The same applies to your network.

This Network Law is the essence of networking success. Take total responsibility for relationships in your network. Create a structure that drives relationships forward and develop the discipline of investing in them. As you do this, you will discover unbelievable new relationship opportunities. NOTE: unless relationships are re-generated, they will peak and slowly lapse.

Want to know more about the Natural Laws of Networks? Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com and I’ll send you a complimentary copy of my 13-page ebook, 7 Natural Laws of Networks. This ebook contains more valuable info on Network Laws, as well as tools and resources to help you learn how to access them.
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Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. Find out more about his programs and services at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

The 4 Components of Every Networking Event

building relationships, Job or career search, Networking 101 - The Basics, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, Networking groups, networking tips No Comments

When I ask “How was the event?” the response I often get is that it was ok. When I inquire further, I discover that the person really didn’t identify with the depth and scope of opportunities that are layered within an event.

Every networking event contains a number of options and opportunities, each of which contains enormous potential. Here are the four components that are a part of every networking event.

1. The meeting before the meeting. Just about every event incorporates unstructured networking time, generally prior to the start of formal proceedings. This is when most quality networking occurs. New arrivals are enthusiastic and happy to meet others and the conversations are usually interesting and upbeat.

Leverage strategy: Get there early! That way, you have less stress and can position yourself to meet others as they arrive. This is your opportunity to connect and make new contacts before the room fills and stress rises.

2. The meeting. This component refers to the formal part of the event. This is when you are participating in the introductions and/or the content of the event. Many people choose to tune out during this portion of an event, seeing it as the price they suffer for attending. Don’t succumb to this delusion, as you may be overlooking great event value.

Leverage strategy: Focus on the players! If you’re attending because of the topic or speaker, you can benefit greatly from being attentive to the content. Even if you’re not, zero in on the other main players that are identified as part of the event (M.C., leaders, staff). These contacts represent greater access to contacts.

3. The meeting within the meeting. Every formal networking event offers the opportunity to make quality connections. This happens when you are seated and waiting for the event to start, or during the meal that is part of an event’s activities. These conversations are usually longer, allowing for a deeper appreciation for one another.

Leverage strategy: Go deep instead of wide! Table/room setup usually restricts the ability to connect with everyone at your table. Invest in the person on either side of you, rather than trying to chat across the table. Do acknowledge the others and exchange business cards to connect later.

4. The meeting after the meeting. Can you remember leaving an event and having a brief conversation with someone on the way out? It happens all the time. This is one of the most overlooked and underutilized opportunity areas at an event. There is a natural context about being together at an event that lingers as you leave.

Leverage strategy: Keep the radar working! Rather than rushing out after an event, slow your pace and keep your composure. The event isn’t over for you yet. Be keenly aware of others as you leave and make it a point to be open to comments or conversations with others as you depart. These connections can be very powerful and productive.

Networking events are incredibly powerful resources that allow you to connect with others and create the launch pad to powerful relationships. Make sure you are leveraging every event component.

Want to know more about how to maximize events? Contact me at info@NetworkingForResults.com


 


5 Networking Group Realities and How to Leverage Them

Miscellaneous, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, Networking groups No Comments

Joining a networking group is a great strategy. The problem is that too many professionals don’t take into consideration the priorities and pitfalls of groups, aren’t aware of how group dynamics can have a negative impact their involvement, and discover too late what indicators have the biggest effect performance and results.

 A group has, by its very nature, certain priorities and parameters. These could be explicit through a written constitution or set of policies. They could implicit, and be expressed as a number of general guidelines established by the founder or other members of the group.

Self-serving motive. The prime directive of every group is to sustain its existence. Many people delude themselves into thinking that the purpose of a group is to help them. This is secondary to the group’s over-riding purpose. This fact can be used very positively as any contribution to the group’s success will have an immediate impact on trust and leverage within the group. Conversely, any action that is perceived as not being in the group’s collective interest will be detrimental to positioning and objectives.

Social environment. Humans are social beings and networking is primarily a social activity. Even though joining a group offers an initial basis for a relationship, it is essential that your primary objective, at least early in your tenure with the group, be to focus on the social aspects. This is necessary to establish, confirm and develop your position. Understanding and dealing with different personalities is a key success factor for maximizing results within a group.

Political in nature. Within any group, there is a political perspective that must be acknowledged. There is always a small group of individuals who have the ability, the willingness or the opportunity to influence the balance of the group. Identifying these key players can go a long way to helping achieve your objectives more quickly and easily. In addition, developing your position to become a player within the group will heavily impact the ultimate outcome of your investment.

Require Investment. Simply joining a group will accomplish nothing. Relationships require an investment in time, effort and energy. One of the main criteria to achieving results within any group is your commitment to the group. This investment is a long term commitment confirmed by your active participation on an on-going basis. Be prepared to see your involvement as a multi-year marketing strategy. This way you will forego the short term perspective that may hinder your overall success within the group.

Rule of the few. In any group setting, there are always a few individuals who control much of the activity and results. Discovering who these people are and maximizing your relationships with these important members will help you accomplish your objectives. Better yet, become one of the “Important Few” and immediately gain the ability to leverage your investment and involvement.

Do you have a networking group question?  Contact me at info@NetworkingForResults.com. Let’s discuss your issue. I’d love to help.

 

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