Build Relationships That Last

June 30, 2011

How do “relationship marketing” and business networking relate to one another?

Follow these three phases of relationship marketing and networking, and your connections will be here to stay.

By Ivan Misner   |  05/23/06 |

Effective networking is all about building relationships. Successful businesspeople understand that networking and relationship marketing are more about “farming” than they are about “hunting.” It’s about building long-lasting connections with other professionals.

Relationship marketing involves building deep networks strongly rooted in a bond or connection that is developed over time with other people. Among the most important connections are those with your referral sources, with prospects these referral sources bring you and with customers you recruit from the prospects. These relationships don’t just spring up full-grown; they must be nurtured. As they grow, fed by mutual trust and shared benefits, they evolve through three phases: visibility, credibility and profitability. We call this evolution the VCP model.

Any successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, is unique to every pair of individuals, and it evolves over time. It starts out tentative, fragile, full of unfulfilled possibilities and expectations. It grows stronger with experience and familiarity. It matures into trust and commitment. The VCP model describes the process of creation, growth and strengthening of business, professional and personal relationships; it is useful for assessing the status of a relationship and where it fits in the process of getting referrals. It can be used to nurture the growth of an effective and rewarding relationship with a prospective friend, client, co-worker, vendor, colleague or family member. When fully realized, such a relationship is mutually rewarding and thus self-perpetuating.

The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: You and another individual become aware of each other. In business terms, a potential source of referrals or a potential customer becomes aware of the nature of your business–perhaps because of your PR and advertising efforts, or perhaps through someone you both know. This person may observe you in the act of conducting business or relating with the people around you. The two of you begin to communicate and establish links–perhaps a question or two over the phone about product availability. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, but you know little about each other. A combination of many such relationships forms a casual-contact network, a sort of de facto association based on one or more shared interests.The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness. The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more information you will obtain about others, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater will be your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can or should refer business. Visibility must be actively maintained and developed; without it, you cannot move on to the next level, credibility.

Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence. Once you and your new acquaintance begin to form expectations of each other–and the expectations are fulfilled–your relationship can enter the credibility stage. If each person is confident of gaining satisfaction from the relationship, then it will continue to strengthen.
Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified and services are rendered. The old saying that results speak louder than words is true. This is very important. Failure to live up to expectations–to keep both explicit and implicit promises–can kill a budding relationship before it breaks through the ground and can create visibility of a kind you don’t want.To determine how credible you are, people often turn to third parties. They ask someone they know who has known you longer, perhaps done business with you. Will she vouch for you? Are you honest? Are your products and services effective? Are you someone who can be counted on in a crunch?

The mature relationship, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its “profitability.” Is it mutually rewarding? Do both partners gain satisfaction from it? Does it maintain itself by providing benefits to both? If it doesn’t profit both partners to keep it going, it probably will not endure.
The time it takes to pass through the phases of a developing relationship is highly variable. It’s not always easy to determine when profitability has been achieved–a week? A month? One year? In a time of urgent need, you and a client may proceed from visibility to credibility overnight. The same is true of profitability; it may happen quickly, or it may take years–most likely, somewhere in between. It depends on the frequency and quality of the contacts, and especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.
Shortsightedness can impede full development of the relationship. Perhaps you’re a customer who has done business with a certain vendor off and on for several months, but to save pennies you keep hunting around for the lowest price, ignoring the value this vendor provides in terms of service, hours, goodwill and reliability. Are you really profiting from the relationship, or are you stunting its growth? Perhaps if you gave this vendor all your business, you could work out terms that would benefit both of you.

Profitability is not found by bargain hunting. It must be cultivated, and, like farming, it takes patience.
Visibility and credibility are important in the relationship-building stages of the referral marketing process. But when you have established an effective referral-generation system, you will have entered the profitability stage of your relationships with many people–the people who send you referrals and the customers you recruit as a result. All this is critical to successful relationship marketing and networking.

Ivan Misner is founder and Chairman of BNI, a professional business networking organization headquartered in Upland, Calif. Dubbed the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.

Network Like an Entrepreneur

June 23, 2011

Are you a corporate type who is slow to network? Then take a cue from entrepreneurs and connectors who reap many benefits from contacts

By Liz Ryan | Original Post: 03/27/07 |

I have a message for my friends in the corporate world: When it comes to networking, you guys need to wake up and smell the coffee! Your peers in the entrepreneurial realm are miles ahead of you when it comes to making and sustaining business connections.
Not long ago I spoke at an entrepreneurial conference in Wisconsin. When it was time for me to speak, the conference emcee had to practically shout into the microphone in order to get people to stop talking. Entrepreneurs love to talk to people about their businesses— networking is typically their No. 1 or No. 2 channel for new clients.

But corporate people don’t get it. They don’t go to networking events because they’re afraid of being hit up by job-seekers and service providers. What they don’t see is that by staying home instead of getting out to meet people, their own networks don’t grow. And that, over time, can really hurt them.
The difference between corporate types and entrepreneurial ones was really brought home to me when I attended an all-corporate event here in Denver. I couldn’t figure out why the audience was downright torpid. Finally, a friend of mine pulled me aside and said: “Their companies have sent these folks. Each company bought a table and sent over enough employees to fill it. They don’t see the need to network, and see things like this as an obligation.”
Then I understood why this group was so lackluster—and I couldn’t help comparing them to the entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs were jazzed to meet one another, while the corporate people milled about in their own company groupings, speaking to strangers as little as possible.

How can a person read the newspaper and listen to the radio and not realize that what seems like the world’s most secure corporate job could be gone tomorrow? I would hate to be a laid-off corporate person hitting the networking circuit for the first time when I desperately needed a new job.
Expanding your list of job-search contacts is only one reason for corporate people to get better at networking, however. Possessing a varied and vibrant network of contacts helps you make better decisions; provides you with advice and moral support for career steps and transitions as you encounter them; and gives you another outlet (besides your own workmates, your spouse or partner, and your dog) to vent about and process your experiences at work.
When I was a young corporate HR bunny, I’d always hear the older, better-connected executives say things like, “I’ll call my buddy over at Amoco about that issue, he’s an expert on petrodollars.” I remember thinking, “How do they get all these buddies?”
Well, of course for most of these guys, the network-building started way back in college. But for avid networkers, it never ends. They are out and about, in person and online, making and cultivating relationships with people across the business ecosystem. Can you doubt that the managers with the most robust networks somehow end up hearing about the plum assignments, locating the best suppliers, getting into the most sought-after accounts, and generally thriving all the way to the bank?

So if you’re a typical walled-off corporate person, moving from home to car to cube and back again, let this be your wake-up call. Now is the time—now, March, 2007, to be exact— to shake off the torpor and get your network going.
And if you feel that you’ve got a head start on your slow-to-networking corporate fellows, here’s another tip for you. Well-connected networkers thrive, but the people who really benefit from the buoyant networks around them are connectors, who I call the uber-networkers.
Connectors are people who don’t merely build their own networks but also introduce great people to one another. One of my favorite connectors, Ellen, is a master at the art of finding intersections between her contacts’ business needs. She’ll hear your story (having trouble formatting a new report, struggling with a difficult supplier in China) and process it. Two days later, she’ll send along an e-mail message that introduces you to the very person in her own network who can solve your problem—and quite likely, for whom you can do something useful as well.
Connectors thrive because they actively seek to move the value of their networks from one contact to another. They know—they trust—that this interaction will benefit them, too. Their networking isn’t a matter of “help me, right now,” but rather of finding common elements among the people they’ve known for years and the new people they’re meeting.

And guess what happens as a result? Connectors build enormous networks around them. Everybody knows them, and everybody trusts and appreciates them. What more could a working person ask for?
So put down the crossword puzzle or the video-game controller and head out to a local networking event, pronto. If you’re uncomfortable talking about yourself, focus on learning as much as you can about the people you meet so that you can make helpful introductions for them later. Even the most gun-shy corporate person can and should establish one solid new business relationship per month.
If you’re not doing that, ask yourself: Is my network a professional asset to me? If not, the year is young: You’ve got nine months left to move into active networking and cultivate some terrific connecting skills, as well, before 2008. Do it now, before the corporate torpor hits you again!

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

Tomorrow 6/22: “Next Level” Networking Event

June 21, 2011

Come prepared with your business cards to meet new contacts in various professions ranging from fashion, finance, real estate and beyond.

Please join us tomorrow for the

“Next Level” Networking Event

on Wednesday June 22,

at the AXA Financial Center at 6:30pm.

RSVP here

Visit for more details about our networking organization and events.

$10 at the door. Light Refreshments will be served.

The AXA Financial Center is located at 1290 Avenue of the Americas  between 51st and 52nd Sts in Midtown New York. Follow the signs for the NYC SOUP event.

The Dos and Don’ts of Social Networking

June 16, 2011

Use these tips to maximize your time and get the most out of your online efforts

By Ivan Misner   |   Original Post: 05/10/10 |

People have a tendency to get online at random times and start clicking away. Then something mysterious happens to the space-time continuum, and all of a sudden two hours goes and they have nothing to show for it. But it’s fairly easy to avoid falling victim to that trap–have a plan and stick to it!

The key to success with social media is to outline a strategy which considers the amount of time you can realistically dedicate each day to your online marketing efforts. If you plan your activities, use time-saving tools and make sure your ROI expectations are reasonable you’ll be in a good position to succeed at social networking.
Find the social network that’s right for you.
Everything that follows hinges upon this point. And let me add, it’s not all about Facebook. Some businesses will benefit more from concentrating on niche networks that may have less traffic, but more are targeted to that particular brand’s consumer.

Planning ahead makes you efficient
Map out a weekly schedule that outlines the specific days and times you will spend on social media. Figure out what’s realistic and what makes sense for your company and go from there. Here’s a sample weekly schedule.
•  Everyday: You post one update at 9 am, one at 1 pm and one at 5 pm.
•  Mondays and Wednesdays: You dedicate 10 minutes to responding to comments and direct messages at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
•  Tuesdays and Thursdays: You dedicate 10 minutes at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to retweeting people’s comments and thanking people for mentioning you or retweeting your posts.
This is just an example, but you should definitely take the time to devise a social media strategy that makes sense for you.

Use tools to save time
Take advantage of the various social media tools that are designed specifically to save you time. For example, sites like, and help you by sending updates to multiple social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, with one click.
Some sites–like–even allow you to link multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts to one desktop application where you can post updates to all profiles, as well as view and respond to your friends’ posts. This means no more logging-in to multiple social networking sites.
Also, sites like let you schedule updates in advance, so your profiles can be updated even when you’re not online. This is a useful tool for all your road-warriors.

Check your ROI expectations.
Once you have a strategy in place, you’ll no doubt be anxious to start seeing a return on your social media networking investment. It’s very important to remember one thing: Networking takes time. Rather than expecting to see a surge in sales, you should hope to see people interacting with your brand.

Building relationships with people and credibility for your brand doesn’t happen overnight
If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep (meaning you’ve hoarded followers but they aren’t engaged with your brand on a personal level), it will not be successful. Rather than a big pool of followers, it’s important that you create a network of depth and meaningful relationships. You do this by being visible and engaging in conversations. Over time, these activities give you credibility; which in turn leads to building your brand and your sales.

Remember these helpful don’ts.

So, you’ve learned what you should do to carry out an effective and profitable social media campaign for your business, but there are also some things you should be sure to avoid.

Below are the five most common mistakes that people and businesses make when it comes to social media networking.

1.  Spending too much time on sites you enjoy and not fully evaluating whether or not that particular site is the most effective one for your efforts.
2.  Visiting a site for “work” and then running down rabbit holes, getting distracted by interesting posts.
3.  Not recognizing when it’s time to delegate certain social media responsibilities to a consultant, agency, or simply another person.
4.  Setting up a blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter page and then not keeping it populated–consistency and fresh content matter.
Forgetting that social media is about engaging in the conversation and not just about selling.

Ivan Misner is founder and Chairman of BNI, a professional business networking organization headquartered in Upland, Calif. Dubbed the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.

Weds. June 22 : “Next Level” Networking Event

June 14, 2011

Want to learn specific branding strategy and network with NYC professionals?

Please join us for the

“Next Level” Networking Event

on Wednesday June 22,

at the AXA Financial Center at 6:30pm.

RSVP here

Visit for more details about our networking organization and events.

$10 at the door. Light Refreshments will be served.

The AXA Financial Center is located at 1290 Avenue of the Americas  between 51st and 52nd Sts in Midtown New York. Follow the signs for the NYC SOUP event.

Master Networkers Ask the Right Questions

June 9, 2011

Five ways to keep the conversation rolling, set yourself apart and boost referrals

By Ivan Misner   |  Original Post:  06/08/10 |

People like to talk about themselves and by now we all know that people refer business to people they like and respect. When you give others the time to tell their story and explain their business, your stock automatically rises in their eyes. Throw in the fact that you’ve got a top-flight product or service–don’t worry, eventually the other guy will wind down and you’ll get to talk about yourself–and you’ll see how it’s a lot easier than many people think to create a solid referral partner. All it takes are the right questions.

Question Time

Everyone has a story, so make it your job to find out what it is. This all begins with your first conversation. If you lead by asking the right questions–questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in the other person’s business–you’ll cultivate an atmosphere of trust and rapport from the start. By “right questions,” I don’t mean prospecting or qualifying questions, the kind you’d ask if you were trying to size up the other person’s potential for helping you. That should never be the goal of the first conversation.

Here are five questions that will keep the conversation rolling, set you apart from other networkers and eventually lead to referrals:

1. What do you like most about what you do?

If you’ve been out networking before, you already know that “What do you do?” is one of the first questions people ask you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t leave you much room to maneuver after both you and your fellow networker have answered:
Fellow networker: “So what do you do?”
You: “I’m a public relations consultant. How about you?”
Fellow networker: “I see. Well, I own a print shop.”

(Awkward 4-second pause that seems to go on forever.)
Imagine how much better it works if you follow up with this question:
“Oh, a print shop. That’s interesting. What do you like most about the printing business?”
This leads to more interesting conversation about the other person’s business, his likes and dislikes, his experiences and so forth. It makes the conversation flow and lets you relax while you learn about his trade or profession.
What’s more, if he’s like most of us, he will eventually decide he’s talked enough and will ask you the same question–what do you like most about your business? Be ready with a good response. A response that answers the question, raises important issues and explains how you’re different from others in the industry.

2. You mentioned that you were in [industry]. What got you started in that direction?

This question is much like the previous one in that it gives the other person a chance to talk about personal goals and desires and to look favorably on you for asking it. It also gives you insight into how dedicated she is to her profession and how proficient she may be at it. When you learn what her previous experience has been, you begin to see ways that you might refer other people to her for specialized products or services.

3. Where else do you usually network?

Not only does this question help break the ice during that sometimes awkward period just after you’ve introduced yourself, but it also gives you a chance to talk about something you both know a little bit about.
Another reason to ask this question is because it gives you the opportunity to make an instant connection. It provides the other person valuable information he may not have known, on a topic relevant to him; chances are good you’ll run into him at that next meeting. As we all know, a great step toward creating a solid referral partner is to first make a connection with that person.

4. What are some of your biggest challenges? 
This is a great question that can be used toward the end of the conversation. Of the questions mentioned thus far, this one usually elicits the longest response. Why? Because you’re asking about her passions and her motivation.

5. How can I help you?

Only once you’ve asked a new acquaintance some or all of the above questions, the conversation has gone well and you’ve decided this person is someone you’d like to have in your business network, is this a good question to ask. Being helpful is the best way to start building a solid relationship. For an experienced networker it’s a question that comes naturally, because that networker is one who has adopted the mindset of giving value and service to others without any thought of immediate return. It demonstrates that you have the other person’s interests foremost in your mind, and it’s an excellent way to build the credibility and trust necessary for a valuable networking partnership.

Asking the right questions is about earning trust and gaining rapport with a new contact. It’s about your contact feeling comfortable telling you about her business without competing with you for “airtime.” But most of all, asking the right questions is about developing a relationship with a future referral partner, so she’ll be more than happy to give you any referral that may come her way.

Ivan Misner is founder and Chairman of BNI, a professional business networking organization headquartered in Upland, Calif. Dubbed the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.

Steps to Easy Relationship Building

June 7, 2011

By Maria Tabaka | Orginal Post: 04/04/11 |

Prospecting, Sales, Marketing – oh my! It can all feel quite overwhelming and frustrating at times, can’t it? Recently, I spoke with an acquaintance who has been in the job market for over a year. I noticed a pattern in John’s marketing of himself that I’ve seen in many business owners as well. John is a great connector and has no problem selling his skills to prospective employers. The problem is that he works for weeks, sometimes months, on just one opportunity, putting all of his proverbial eggs in one basket.  He connects, he connects some more to the same person – and then he waits – and waits. Valuable time is wasted as John waits and hopes and does nothing to create the next connection.

Whether you are selling yourself for an employment opportunity or selling a product or service, make sure you cast a wide net. Remember that a long courtship is normal in the world of sales and, no matter how stunning your prospect believes you are, they may decline your invitation to take the plunge. So you want to have many prospects in your marketing funnel. You also want to have many relationships at various stages of development.

Let’s talk about a few simple ways to find people and develop relationships with them.  Not every person you meet will become a paying customer, but we thrive on all sorts of relationships in life and business. Build rapport and enjoy the experience; you never know where it will lead! Let’s look at some simple ways to connect and build rapport naturally. Remember – persistence, consistency and organization are the keys to success.

Review past successes. Where and how have you found prospects in the past? Make a list of your customers/clients and note where they came from. This tracking is important , so keeping your records in Excel or an online CRM is a good idea.  If you see a trend, capitalize on it. Create a plan to market in that arena and recreate your success.

Identify the social media platforms where your ideal client is most likely to hang out. If you find that having a presence on multiple social media platforms is overwhelming then have an all-out presence on the one site where you will meet your prospects. For me, LinkedIn is a powerful “boardroom” and I have a lot of success making virtual appointments through this venue.  Remember that Social Media is similar to good old-fashioned networking. You walk into the room, join a conversation, shake a few hands and re-connect with the people you find most interesting. It really is that simple.

When was the last time you asked clients for referrals? Do you have a referral program in place? How about an affiliate program? Don’t forget to remind friends and family of who your perfect client is. Of course your friends support you, but they can’t always have you in mind when they meet new people.

Do some face-to-face networking at meetings and events where you will learn something. If you’re interested in the topic, you will be more engaged and energetic. The inclination to stay behind the computer can be too great now that we don’t have to leave the office to connect to the outside world. So push yourself to at least one event a week – more if you can.
– See who your social media friends and peers are connected to and ask for introductions to their connections. This is also a great way to gather “recommendations” on LinkedIn.

– Offer to be a guest on podcasts and to write guest posts on blogs. Not only can you connect with tons of people but you might find a powerful connection in the podcaster/blogger. I’ve become good friends with a number of my podcast guests; this is a powerful opportunity. Remember to have a giveaway ready if your host allows.

Notice who retweets you on Twitter and who comments on your status updates on Facebook. If someone retweets you, thank them and build a relationship with them…you’ve got a captive audience there!
Now, here’s where most people miss the boat – follow up!  How often have you met someone and felt the connection, yet failed to follow up after the initial meeting? Well, you’re not alone. Create a “system” for follow up. Follow a process and carve out time on a weekly basis to take the next step with each of your connections. Here are some examples of staying in touch with the people you meet in person. You’ll want to create a series of steps that take place over a long period of time, not just one feeble attempt at re-connecting.

Send a handwritten note (yes, you heard me right) telling the person how much you enjoyed meeting them.  If you schedule a designated time each week to do your follow up, it won’t feel like a burden.

Send an email with your e-brochure or other information attached and request theirs in return.

Extend an invitation to re-connect via phone or in person. Don’t give up on this one until you get a clear message that the individual isn’t interested. People are busy and new relationships can often take a back seat.

Ship a small sample of your product or extend an invitation to experience your service – whatever your give away is. Pose it as a gift, people like feeling special.

Consider what you can do for the individual. Do you know someone who would be a great contact for them? Offer an introduction or to meet with the trio for coffee or lunch.

Forward articles or other resources that you believe they may find interesting and helpful.

Continue to stay in touch via email, phone and in person if appropriate. Don’t let the relationship go stale.

Send a “thinking of you” note or email. If you experience something that reminds you of that person in some way, let them know. Just a short correspondence offering a few nice words or a good laugh goes a long way.

Ask if you may add them to your mailing list and sign up for theirs as a way to stay current with one another.
Marla Tabaka is a life and business coach who helps entrepreneurs in achieving their business and life goals faster and smarter. She serves as a Success Coach for the nationally known organization, Count-Me-In for Women’s Economic Independence and helps award recipients grow their businesses to one-million dollars and beyond.