Thursday, December 30, 2010

Relationship based business development benefits all consumers

Imagine that every time you made a purchase, spent your own money, made an investment in your business, your health and wellness, or your home you knew and trusted the person who was providing the service. You knew they would go beyond customer service, because your were connected to them by someone you both knew and you both trusted. Would that make your business interactions better, more comfortable, and more at ease?

What is Relationship Based business development?

Relationship based business development is growing your business through referrals. Referrals are traditionally thought of as something you ask clients for and hope they know someone they can direct your way. In the Referral Institute we teach 8 sources of referrals. There are many people business owners have relationships with that they can support by referring their own clients and prospects and building strong relationships through giving.

Is Relationship Based sales a fad?

Relationship Based is the oldest form of sales. You need help with something for your house, your company, or your family - and you ask someone you know for advice on who to use. We may have strayed from this connection to the people we are asking for services from, but we can go back to having a relationship based on trust with the people we exchange our money for their services.

What kinds of business can be helped with Relationship based sales?

Almost any kind of business where you are spending a lot of money, or investing in your business, or your family, or your finances, or your health. Service businesses like financial planners, massage therapists, painters, web designers, and mortgage brokers are just the tip of the variety of types of businesses that rely on relationships with their clients and referral sources to be successful.

What about retail?

I love the idea of trusting my retailer enough to ask them for advice on other products and services. Does the person who sold me my office furniture have a recommendation for someone who can lease me office space like a commercial realtor? Do they have a relationship with someone who can steam clean the carpets or someone who sells office supplies? These businesses form natural relationships and can easily support one another with referrals at the retail store level.

How does this benefit consumers?

Consumers asking for advice from a trusted vendor (be it a payroll service provider, a life insurance agent, a life coach, or a public relations specialist) can know that the first contact with the needed service provider is opened by a relationship. The consumer has an ally when working with a new service provider. They no longer have to enter the business transaction on their own. Each time money is invested or spent there is a higher level of comfort and more ease in the transaction.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What do you do? Does it depend?

I work with entrepreneurial business owners from all over New York State. They all have a desire to help more people with their products and services. They are ambitious in their hope to grow their business.

One of the ways I consult with business owners is to help them develop an Emotional Based Marketing message. The components of an effective Emotional Based Marketing message are that it be clear, simple, synergistic, and consistent.

The Emotional Based Marketing message is the point of contact that gets passed from person to person when networking. We look at your word-of-mouth marketing message as a relay race. If you consider a relay race, the baton has to be passed from person to person to person to finally cross the finish line. Your marketing message needs to be clear, simple, synergistic, and consistent in order to be easily passed along this relay race. The last person to receive this message is a prospect – a potential client – and they need to know what it is that you do.

I was working with a fitness professional last week and when I asked her how she answered the question, “What do you do?” she said, “It depends.”

If she’s talking to a person who is stressed out – there’s one answer. If she’s talking to a mom – there’s another answer. If she’s talking to someone who is overweight – there’s a third answer. She tells people her work is fun. She tells them it is a dance exercise program. She tells them it is challenging. She tells them it is a workout.

When we turned the conversation to answering the question with an answer starting with “I help…” she had some new thoughts.

I help…people…feel better…about themselves…and achieve their health and fitness goals.

It could work – but is it clear and simple? Will it be easily passed along from person to person in the relay race of word-of-mouth marketing?

She said, “How about, ‘I help people feel healthier inside and out.’” I think that is a little closer, but does that touch your heart. Does that response touch your emotions?

We look at a lot of emotions that help charge us and move us in the direction of delivering a truly emotional based marketing message. Do you provide security or happiness or confidence of fulfillment? Do you prevent stress or pain or wasting time or illness? What do you do that connects to people’s lives?

She doesn’t just help people feel healthier – she helps people live healthier. We tried, “I help people live healthier inside and out.” We wanted to make sure it was clear and simple – so with a few more edits we landed on, “I help people live healthier”.

When someone asks her what she does she now has an answer. They could be a prospect or a referral source or a family member. They could be someone dealing with stress or they could be a mom or they could be overweight. Her answer now is synergistic with who she is as a fitness instructor. It is clear. It is simple. It will be consistent because everyone she talks with going forward will hear the same answer. “I help people live healthier”.

This always makes people respond, ‘How do you do that?’ and by then, they’ve formed a positive image of who she is and what she does because of her five word answer. Clear, simple, synergistic, and consistent are all you need to achieve your emotional based connection to the world.


David Makar is a Referral Marketing Consultant with the Referral Institute Ithaca. He helps business owners work less, make more, and play more by helping them create Referrals for Life.

The Referral Institute Ithaca is a company region of the Referral Institute, the world’s leading referral marketing consulting, training, and coaching organization. It offers referral marketing training, coaching and consulting to individuals and organizations, and teaches business professionals how to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing to drive sales and generate long-lasting, sustainable business growth. The vision of the Referral Institute of Ithaca is to improve the lives of all residents of upstate New York through changing the way business is done – from transactional to relational. David Makar works with business owners from Rochester to Westchester with a specific focus on Tompkins County business owners who want to learn the skills to create Referrals for Life.

For more information about the Referral Institute Ithaca, visit

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Remember the DYICE!

Does Your Ideal Client Exist?

When asking for referrals - be specific to be terrific. The more specific you are, the more inspired we will be to find that specific person for you. Do you like challenges? Probably - since you are an entrepreneur. Here's a challenge for you. Think about who your ideal client is. If you had 10 clients like this - highly profitable and very easy for you to support - what would your business be like.

Does Your Ideal Client Exist?
I hope they do! Are they in the geographical area you are telling us to look? Maybe that should be a consideration of the specificity of the description.

What's the worst that could happen?
People will be looking for your best client. The one that pays you the most money and is the easiest for you to support. They will continue to look for this person until you ask them to look for something else.

What's the best that could happen?
People will introduce you to your best client. The one that pays you the most money and is the easiest for you to support.

We say Be Specific to Be Terrific. So continue to be terrific and tell us about your Ideal Client.
DYICE: Does Your Ideal Client Exist? We might not know if you don't tell us who he or she is!

Remember the DYICE!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Walking Out

At age 26 I walked out of a good paying job because I thought I could see into the future.

I was one month away from working for this company for four full years. I had two weeks of vacation a year. I commuted an hour each way to work. I was making enough money to pay my bills, travel once in a while, and save money. I hated almost every minute of it and if I stayed I would have been able to retire from the company at age 65.

I looked at 39 more years of this and without any plans on what to do next I gave my two week notice. That afternoon I paid off my car loan and three days later I started a 3 month driving tour across the country. I was searching for something, but I didn't know what it was.

I loved to help people and wanted to have a more satisfying life - so I became a full time entrepreneur. It was a long road from there to the Referral Institute - but that was the beginning.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I am Motivated!

I was at a great networking event a few weeks ago. I met many business owners and one of them asked me what I specifically helped business owners do to work less and play more. We talked about being specific with who their target market is and who good referral sources could be. I told this business owner that I help my clients by teaching them 18 tactics to motivate their referral partners and 15 ways to promote their referral partners.

This sole proprietor said, “I am motivated! I was invited to a networking event and I told everyone I knew about it and I was the only one who appeared! I am motivated! I don’t need any help in being more motivated!”

When I help business owners grow their business by word-of-mouth we go back to the fundamentals of referrals. All referrals come from relationships. All of these relationships are with people. If we would like to have more referrals – we have to start with motivating the source of all referrals – people! When I teach business owners how they can motivate referral partners we talk about personally inviting people events (as well as 17 other tactics).

Each of the tactics is delivered with the purpose of the tactic, the specific benefits, the steps to carry out the tactic effectively, and the applicability and requirements of the tactic. The next time you have the opportunity to invite a referral source (in order to motivate THEM to pass YOU referrals), keep these factors in mind.

Your goal with these tactics is to motivate your referral sources to generate positive word-of-mouth for you. The easiest way for them to do this is to be in front of people you would like to do business with and have them introduce you. They have to be there – so they have to be invited. This also makes it easy for you to promote them – if they are right there in front of people. If you stay home or if they stay home neither of you are expanding the circle of people who hear about you by word-of-mouth.

The best place to invite your source is an event that you are attending. Spending time inviting people to an event that you might not attend or cannot attend is not going to help you work less and play more. The purpose of inviting your referral source is to enhance your relationship with this person. They’ll get to see you in a different light. If it is an event where you are speaking or being recognized, then the event will add to your credibility.

Developing a calendar of events and invitations is easy! First make a list of the events and then a list of referral sources. Then call (email doesn’t work as well) and invite them with enough notice so they can plan to attend. In your call explain why you’d like them to attend and if they can attend pay for the entrance fee to the event if there is one.

As you are making your list with events and sources make sure there is a benefit or interest for your referral source. What are they trying to accomplish? What are their hobbies? Who would the like to meet? Ask yourself when was the last time you did a GAINS exchange and what you learned about the source.

If possible, ask your guests to invite their own guests.

While you may find that invitations often are turned down – continue to do so. Make sure you are matching the right events with the right people and giving them plenty of notice. When you invite them they’ll think a more highly of you for making the personal invitation, they’ll have a better understanding of you and what you are interested in, and they will be more motivated to help you grow your business by word-of-mouth.

The 18 tactics to motivate your referral sources was first written by Ivan Misner and Robert Davis in the book “Business by Referral”. These tactics are included in detail in the Certified Networker course. As a certified instructor of the material I teach these 18 tactics to my clients so they can grow their business by word-of-mouth.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Calculating Needs

While on vacation this week a business professional asked me for a little more information on what the Referral Institute is and how I help business owners. They were interested in me, but I came to find out that they were also considering starting their own consulting business as a marketing copy writer. They had over 15 years experience in marketing writing and were wondering if it would be possible to get enough clients to launch their business.

On every Referral Institute region’s website is a tool called ‘Pipeline’ where business owners can put in six specific pieces of their business acquisition statistics and find out how many referrals they need to grow their business to their goal. My copy writer consultant friend and I were hiking – so we did the math of Pipeline in our heads.

Her personal goal was to work enough to pay all of her bills, spend time with her fiancé, plan their wedding, and spend time with their mixed family of three dogs. Her financial goal was to make seventy thousand dollars in the next year. We conversed our way through her business and here are some of the results. She would like to charge $50 to $75 per hour for her copy writing work. She lives in the Boston, New Hampshire, and Southern Maine market and this looks like a reasonable starting rate. Her average project is about 25 hours. Each project of this size will bring in about $1250. She will need to work with about 60 clients (actually it is only 56 projects) to hit this financial goal. Have you spent time figuring out your financial goal, your average client revenue, and how many clients you need to engage with?

Her experience shows that about fifty percent of her clients will probably hire a copy writer a second time in the first year they work together. If she has forty (40) clients and half of them (20) hire her for more work in the next 12 months, then we’ll get to 60 projects in the next year. To get to 40 clients we have to have referrals. Her estimate is that about two-thirds of referrals she’ll receive will become clients. Most clients I work with have been operating for three or more years – this makes knowing the real close ration a lot more specific. I have clients tell me that in the last 12 months their close rate is 56.1%. I know they are honestly tracking referrals and closed business. Are you tracking your referrals?

My copy writer friend will need 60 referrals in the next year to get 40 clients which will lead to 60 projects. Does she need 60 referrals this week? Nope. Does she need 30 this week? Nope. Does she need 10? Nope, although that would be great! She’d like to work about 48 weeks this year, so she’ll need 1.25 referrals each working week of the year (or about 5 referrals per month).

While that may still seem overwhelming to a new marketing communications copywriter consultant, if she has five solid referral sources (people who share her target market and do not compete with her), then she only needs one referral from each of them each month. She no longer has to rely on her own cold calling or door knocking ability, or a large cash investment in advertising. She can focus on developing the right relationships with the right sources and from there give enough referrals and receive enough referrals to hit her financial goal, her personal living goals for the next year, and her work goals.

I help business owners to work less and play more by calculating their referral needs with a tool called Pipeline. If you are trying to figure out the value of an individual referral or how many you need to grow your business, visit and under the Tools menu item select Pipeline. Or call me for a Pipeline Consultation and we’ll talk through the calculation and what it all means to growing your business by word-of-mouth.

If you are in need of a brilliant and fun professional marketing copy writer who is looking to help organizations in the southern Maine, southeast New Hampshire, or Boston areas – I am happy to make the introduction to you. She has a passion for helping high tech (software, web applications, hardware, and biotech) businesses communicate their message to their vendors and clients.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Business Card Collections

If you own a business - and you probably are or want to be if you are reading this article - then you probably have business cards. You have your own of course, but you also have been collecting cards. Business cards are the world's smallest billboard. They are chock full of information and insight into a company and an individual. They also start to take over desks, counter tops, wallets, desk drawers, the center console of your car, and once in a while the washing machine (Oops!).

As I've tried to get more organized I've created an elaborate chain of command for business cards. You don't have to have a long process - probably just a few different boxes or bins. These are the names on my bins.

BNI Members (1st 3 cards) - If you are a member of my BNI chapter I'm carrying three of your business cards in my BNI card wallet. When I talk to someone who expresses an interest in your service or if they have a need that you can fulfill then I pass them a card. I'll let you know that I'm promoting you and if they give consent I'll pass you a written referral in BNI with their phone number.

BNI Members (overflow cards) - Sometimes I end up with extra cards of yours. I keep a small box of overflow cards of active Ithaca Thumbs Up BNI Members.

Top 10 Referral Source - If you and I have developed a relationship and we are both at a high level of credibility with each other - then I put 1 of your cards in my wallet. I usually carry cards for my top 10 sources, 5 of my own, and 5 of Arjan's. I keep 5 of each card for each of my top 10 sources in the center console of my car. All of the rest I keep on a Top 10 Referral Source table in my office. When clients come to visit - the top 10 Referral Sources are displayed.

Certified Networker Students at Credibility - My business is about helping people grow their business by referral. A Referral Institute client doesn't get automatic credibility with me - it takes time. For all of my Certified Networker clients where our relationship is at Credibility - I have a special box for your cards. I bring them to our Certified Networker classes and my Referral Success 101 classes to share with other Referral Institute clients.

Credibility Rolodex - For members of the business community where we have a credibility relationship (and you aren't one of my top 10 sources or an active BNI member) I keep a Credibility Rolodex. I use this to refer non-contact sphere professionals to clients, family, and friends. I try to keep one of your cards in this rolodex and the remainder in a Credibility Box.

Visibility Drawer - If we've met, but we aren't yet at Credibility, then your card goes in the visibility drawer. It isn't a dungeon - its just a holding place. I can't refer people to you (because I really don't know you yet or I'm not sure if we can trust each other yet). Ask me if you are in my visibility drawer - if I say yes - maybe we should spend some time together moving our relationship from Visibility to Credibility. I try to sort this drawer alphabetically - just in case I want to find your card to hand to someone. This hand off is not a referral - it is probably given with a little warning that I can't really vouch for your service or product.

Invisibility Drawer - I'm not sure who you are and I'm pretty sure you really don't know who I am. How did I get your card? Maybe I picked it up because I thought you had a business that I might need to use (possible vendor) or because one of my referral partners or clients was looking to meet someone in your profession or because your card looks really nice.

It only took me about 7 years in business to realize that I needed to do something proactive to control the flow of business cards coming into my life. When I'm ready to refer someone I know just where to look. My goal is to revisit these bins, boxes, and drawers at least 3 times a year to move cards into their proper location. Ideally all relationships would go from Invisibility to Visibility to Credibility, but they may go in the other direction too!

What do you do with the business cards you receive? How much more powerful would your referral activity be if you could pass the card of your referral partner to the prospect or potential client? What is someone was able to do that for you?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Upcoming Events

1. Dunk Dave
Tomorrow I’ll be in the dunking booth at Dryden Dairy Day (Parade at 9am on Main Street in Dryden Village, Dairy Day Festivities in Montgomery Park in Dryden Village starting at 10am). My turn in the dunking booth starts at noon (or earlier if it is really hot out). Come and take your best shot. The booth is run by the Dryden Boy Scouts as a fundraiser.

2. Networking @ Noon (for Chamber Members and FLEF members)
On Thursday, June 17th I’ll be speaking at the Chamber of Commerce’s Networking @ Noon and Finger Lakes Entrepreneurs Forum (FLEF) luncheon. The lunch is at the Large Pavilion at Stewart Park and I’ll be speaking for about 20 minutes on “Visibility, Credibility, and the Entrepreneur”. The cost is $25 and registration is required. Call 273-7080 or to register.

3. Women TIES Greater Ithaca June Luncheon
Also on Thursday, June 17th (at noon!): My friend Lee Ann Capogrossi is a marketing specialist will share her expertise on how to build a successful marketing plan for a business, why it is important and the key components required to make it effective. More importantly, she’ll talk about the tools, tactics, and timing that turn marketing dollars into revenue dollars and show you ways you can market your business without even spending any money! The event is sponsored by Rasa Spa (and will be held at Rasa Spa in Ithaca). The cost is $28 and includes lunch, some networking time, and Lee Ann’s program. Reserve your seat by June 14th at or 315-471-1987.

4. WISE Launch Hour: What is a “Mastermind” Group with Pamela Moss
ALSO on Thursday, June 17th (at noon!!): My friend Pamela Moss of Inner Vision Portraits will be speaking at the South Side Innovation Center (2610 S. Salina St. Syracuse) from Noon to 1pm. There is no charge. Pamela’s presentation will cover: What is a "Mastermind" group? How can it give women entrepreneurs the support and clarity we need? The 6 Secrets that Supercharge Your Success. Contact Alicia Millington to register at (315) 443-8634 or

5. Turning Your Dreams into Reality, a "Grow Your Dreams" Vision Board Retreat
Pamela is conducting a retreat on June 24th in Skaneateles, contact Pamela at for registration details.
At the Retreat's lovely lakeside setting, you will: literally see your big vision for your business and your life; create a vision board to stay inspired and motivated; learn the 6 Secrets That Supercharge Your Success -- and how to apply them; enjoy an inspiring, fun, and mind-opening morning with some amazing women entrepreneurs!
When: Thursday June 24 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Where: Stella Maris Retreat and Renewal Center, Skaneateles NY
$89 includes lunch, tea, coffee, and all materials, inspirational raffle items, and $20 tax-deductible donation to Stella Maris
Limited to 25 women only!! (Currently have 14 places left.)

Have a great weekend! Hopefully I’ll see you in Dryden’s Montgomery Park tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Clients in 10 States

When I ran 544 Productions Website Design I had clients in 10 different states. All of these clients were from word-of-mouth. As I’ve been working with clients of the Referral Institute I’ve found that businesses with nationwide clients feel that word-of-mouth can’t work for them. Here is what I’ve found that really works.

Growing your business to have clients in ten states follows the same methods that a business owner would follow if they wanted 10 clients in their neighborhood. The first step is to run a good business – provide a great product and superior customer service. The second step is to follow the same rules that apply for growing your business locally. Here are the rules I followed:

  1. Use word-of-mouth at home to grow your business. I lived in Ithaca and I had a few clients in Ithaca. I wanted more clients in and out of Ithaca – as my goal was to bring in business for Ithaca based graphic designers, writers, and programmers. I joined BNI and started to grow my business locally.
  2. Identify people that you already know that might make good referral sources. I choose BNI members that had the same target market as my web business (My Target Market was Business Owners).
  3. I also identified clients that were in professions that had nationwide counterparts (Educational Consultants, Massage Therapists).
  4. I developed strong relationships with these BNI members and these clients. I worked to educate them on what I liked to do for work, who I liked to work with, and that clients could be from anywhere in the United States.
  5. I worked to motivate these sources (from the 15 ways to motivate from Certified Networker) and they started to generate referrals for me.
  6. I worked with these referrals and turned the referrals I received into clients.
Are you trying to grow your business from the neighborhood to nationwide? I can help you develop a structured plan to help the right referral sources, often people you already know, to achieve tremendous results with word-of-mouth.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A $20K Marketing Budget for $200

Could your business use a $20,000 marketing budget? What if you could spend just $200 to get that $20,000 marketing budget? Would you say you might be interested?

Last Tuesday at my BNI chapter I (as the chapter's education coordinator) spoke about a few things you can do when you do a dance-card or 1-to-1 with a referral source or BNI member. The first time you meet - you could do a GAINS exchange (Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills). This could be completely structured or could be very free flow. I recommend keeping watch on time - so the first 1-to-1 doesn't last forever. Perhaps 1 hour.

If you both felt that the first meeting went well - that you both decided you'd like to continue to grow your relationship based on goals, interests, and accomplishments - then plan a second time to get together.

I recommend talking about the answers to the Six Magic Questions and working out the details of "How Can I Help You (achieve the success you'd like to see in your business and life)?". These details could easily take 30 minutes per person. Try to set a timer or watch the clock, so your time doesn't stretch too far beyond an hour.

Did the second meeting feel good to you? Are you in a position to actively support this member of your BNI chapter or in your contact sphere? Do you see the types of clients that this person would like to see? Do you know the people in the professions of referral sources that this contact would like to meet?

If you said 'yes' to these four questions - then I recommend setting a third 1-to-1 to have a conversation about your life, your family, your biography, and your history. This is a great time to go deeper to get to know the likes and dislikes of your referral partner. Here is where you might be able to find out how they got into their job - not the why, but the how of the path to this dream job of theirs.

So - for the right BNI and contact sphere relationships - you should plan to spend around 3 hours together. This time will help move your relationship from invisibility to visibility to credibility. It may even lead to profitability - but this will never effectively happen until you've passed through the other phases.

Now, about that $20,000 marketing budget. A member of my chapter calculated that with 30 members and 3 hours of meeting time per member and an hourly rate of $225 per hour that it would 'cost' him $20,000 for these meetings.

If he did feel a strong connection through the first two meetings with all 30 members and he had 90 meetings over the course of a year - the actual cost would be about $2 in coffee per meeting or $180.00. How effective would his 30 referral partners be if they spent an honest 30 minutes learning his GAINS profile, 30 minutes learning how they could help him, and 30 minutes learning about his background and biography?

The value (and referrals) would more than pay for the $20,000 in 'billable' time. These 30 people would be prepared to truly help this member and the benefits of this $180 in coffee would be worth far more than the time.

You might not have $20,000 to spend - but with the right few referral sources (at the Referral Institute we recommend 4-8 sources) - you can spend your marketing and networking time wisely to Create Referrals for Life.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"A Professional" or "My Professional"

Recently a member of my business contact sphere asked me which carries more weight when passing a referral, saying "My Professional Service Provider" or saying "A Professional Service Provider". This is a great question, which makes me think of the Truth or Delusion (by Dr. Ivan Misner and Mike Macedonio) statement, "Your best sources of referrals are your customers: Truth or Delusion?"

Dr. Ivan Misner says, “With a well-developed referral network, you can realize more good referrals from one or two professional referral sources than from all your customers – combined.”

So, while my contact sphere professional service provider could see some short term benefit from me as a client - he could realize more good referrals if he treated me as a professional referral source. Better yet, if he could develop strong relationships with a few of the right referral sources - he could find more referrals than from all of his clients - combined. I'm not his ideal client, I'm not in the scope of his laser fine target market. Could I use his services? Probably. Would it be a lot of time for a little gain on his part? Probably.

I have a real estate agent, a higher education consultant, and a car salesman in my immediate contact sphere. I know them and trust them and I have referred my friends, family, and clients to them - even though I haven't had a chance to use their services. I may not use their services myself for a long while - but that doesn't mean I can't refer them. I have to get to know them and I have to get to trust them. Some ways that we have done this:
  • Show up prepared for each BNI meeting, training, and 1-to-1
  • Show up on-time for every event
  • Call if they said they were going to call
  • Provide some positive testimonials from happy clients
  • Show general interest in people
  • Pass referrals to other members of our contact sphere
  • Listen
  • Train me to learn exactly what to look for in an ideal client
  • Follow-up on the referrals that they receive
  • Provide the quality of services at the prices they have quoted
  • Be Truthful
  • Display a positive and supportive attitude
  • Build goodwill and trust
  • Do a GAINS exchange
Referral Sources can do all of these things without ever having me as a direct client. If they do most of these things, and I'm in front of the clients they'd like to meet, then I'm very likely to refer their expertise. If I have a positive third party testimonial for this service provider - one that they supplied to me - then I can use that when I refer people to them.

They can be "A" professional without being "my" professional and still carry a lot of positive weight with me and the people I refer my referral sources to.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

No Substitute

A few years ago I heard a story from a fellow certified first responder. She was called to a home with a man with severe chest pain. Upon the first review of the patient, she found that the patient was not overweight, didn't smoke, and exercised regularly. She asked him if he had been doing anything strenuous before the pain in the chest started - he answered no. She asked him if he had any history of high blood pressure - he answered no.

She asked him when his last meal was - he said many hours ago. His pulse was fast, he was feeling sick, he was sweaty, and he was breathless - but there wasn't any pain spreading to his arms, neck, jaw, or back. She went through the standard checklist again - and again it seemed like he had a lot of serious symptoms, but not all of them.

He hadn't been raking (it was a mild autumn day). He hadn't eaten in a few hours. He hadn't done anything out of the ordinary. She asked him if he was taking any prescriptions, he said no. What about any alternative medicines? Well, he had been taking a cayenne pepper vitamin to maintain his circulation. Had he taken any of these cayenne pepper vitamins today? No - he hadn't. Did he usually take them every day? Yes. But not today. "Right."

And have you been doing any activities that are out of the ordinary? Nope. And have you eaten anything at all in the last few hours. "Well." Well, here's the thing. He had been taking cayenne pepper vitamins every day. Yesterday he finished his last capsule. Today - he felt it was important to not skip a capsule. So he opened a capsule of another supplement, emptied the capsule, and then filled the capsule with cayenne pepper from his spice rack. Then he popped it in his mouth with a glass of water.

About 30 minutes later he called 9-1-1 because he was having severe chest pain.

Just as do-it-yourself cayenne pepper capsules are no substitute for factory produced cayenne pepper vitamins - a do-it-yourself networking group is no substitute for a strong contact networking organization like BNI.

The regulated structure of BNI is what creates a high level of value for the members. BNI has an attendance policy. BNI allows just one member per profession - to keep you from competing within the group. BNI has meetings each week of the year - which helps to develop strong relationships between business owners who actively want to support each other. BNI has a code of ethics, structured meetings, membership training, and leadership trainings. Do the do-it-yourself networking groups have these features? Will you get the same results?

At the Referral Institute we recommend joining one strong contact networking organization. We also recommend joining casual contact and service organizations that fit your business and personality. We've found that just as there is no safe substitute for cayenne pepper pills, there is no safe substitute for your business as an organization like BNI.

In Ithaca, there are two BNI Chapters that meet each week.
Ithaca Thumbs Up!
Karen Veaner, President

Cayuga Lake Connections
Mike May, President

Throughout upstate New York, from Rochester to Ithaca to Syracuse to Albany over 30 BNI chapters meet each week. There is a great team of directors that can help connect you to a BNI chapter in your area. Here are some contact details.

Lesley Shimer, Managing Area Director
Syracuse, Albany
518 374-2841

Joel Craddock, Area Director
585 750-3927

Tim Giacoman, Area Director
Ontario County, Rochester
585 381-1190

Ellen Matuszak, Area Director
Ithaca, Tompkins County/surrounding area
607 273-8110

David McLellan, Area Director
585 503-8598

Peter Park, Area Director
Ontario County, Wayne County, Rochester
585 419-6752

Brigid Ryan, Area Director
585 334-4322

Additional details online:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Give

Do you want to be selling to strangers or helping a member of your referral network by connecting them to people you already know? I wrote this for members of my BNI (Business Networking International) chapter for our April 6th meeting. I've just taken on the role of Education Coordinator and my goal is to help the members of the Ithaca Thumbs Up chapter be more effective in helping each other in BNI.

"How to Give a Referral"
At each BNI meeting, members are invited to tell all of the other members what they are looking for this week. This could be an ideal prospect, a contact with a certain title in a specific business, or a specific name that they'd like a personal introduction to. Here are steps to helping out at least one member of your BNI chapter (or of your referral network):

1. Write down what everyone is looking for, you may have 15 or 30 or 40 ideas of what people are looking for.
2. Pick one person that you can help from the list, based on what they are looking for
3. Circle that name and 'who' they were looking for
4. Call the 'who' by noon
5. If you don't have that 'who' - ask the first 3 people you meet on Tuesday if they know that 'who'
6. Continue all week (asking the first 3 people you meet, until you make the connection).
7. Bring that person's contact information and permission to call to your BNI chapter next week
8. Repeat this each week and give 50 referrals a year!

Additional Information: You Know the Prospect
Hi ______________,
Can I introduce you to (name of BNI member), the owner of the (BNI member's company name), who can help you (service BNI member provides)? He/She has helped me (how have they helped you?) and I’m seeing the results in my (business / life / health / family / can you provide an effective 3rd party testimonial here?).

Let me know if I can make this introduction.

Thank you,

--You Ask someone you know if they know the prospect--
Hi _(name of friend)_,

Can you do me a favor? I’m trying to help my friend _(BNI member first name)_ by connecting him/her to a _(who are they are looking for this week)_.

Do you know a _(Business Owner / Person / Someone)_ that you can introduce me to that fits that description?

--Your follow-up contact with the prospect--
Hi _(Prospect Name)_,
(Your Friend) gave me your contact information – she/he said you were a (who your BNI member is looking for this week).

Can I introduce you to (BNI member), the owner of (BNI member company name), who can help you (how can they help?)? He/She has helped me (how have they helped you?) and I’m seeing the results in my (business / life / health / family / can you provide an effective 3rd party testimonial here?).

Can make this introduction?

Thank you,
Repeat this and you too can bring 50 referrals a year to BNI.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Linked In?

Here are my few rules for Linked In:
1. I have to have met you in person. I have to know you are real and that you aren't an avatar representation of someone else (or some corporation).

2. I have to be willing to help you. It would be nice if you were willing to help me too. I like to use Linked In to see how I can help people. If I don't feel comfortable helping you (with information, support, tips, leads, or referrals), then we probably won't have a useful linked-in relationship.

3. I have to have visibility with you. Do I know your first name, your last name, your business name, and your profession? Do you know my profession and business name? Until we have a visibility relationship, in real life, we don't have much of a connection online either. I don't make connections - real or virtual - if there's nothing behind the connection.

4. Do you have 10 connections? I don't ask to be Linked-In to someone that has less that 10 connections. For whatever reason they don't want to use Linked-In, they don't understand the value, they don't want to use online networking, they don't have the time, they don't like to ask people that they know in real life to be connected - - for whatever reason they have less than 10 connections - - we probably wouldn't be able to help each other through Linked-In anyways.

5. Making the first move. If someone asks to Link to me and they follow guidelines 1, 2, and 3 - - then I'll more than likely link to them. (I only use rule 4 when I'm interested in making the first move - usually because we met somewhere in person and I'm interested in getting linked.)

6. Members Together: If we are a member of an organization or hobby group that has a good chance of us meeting in person as some point in the future - I might link to you so we can get to know each other better in advance of a real life meeting. It is unlikely that I would refer anyone to you or ask you for help until we meet in person. That's just the way I am.

7. I don't use connections as a scorecard to measure my life worth. As I tell all of my clients - I'd rather have 10 strong relationships with people I trusted, than 100 weak relationships with people I didn't know.

How do you decide who to link to on Linked-In? Do you accept all invitations? Do you connect with people you don't know, haven't met, don't trust, don't want to help, or have nothing in common?

My company - the Referral Institute of Ithaca - helps business owners work less, play more, and make more by helping them create referrals for life. Linking to hundreds of strangers and reading their updates - well that doesn't sound like working less - so I'll probably skip that activity. For other activities and solutions about working less, making more, and creating Referrals for Life - - check out one of my upcoming Referral Success 101 classes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Recipe for Success

Tuesday afternoon I attended my first ICON meeting. ICON (derived from 'Independent Consultant Network') is a business networking group that meets once a month to support independent consultants by providing a forum where they can meet and learn from each other. The president of ICON is Bob Steinkamp, the owner/manager of Finger Lakes Media Strategies. Bob and I first met at the veterans Watchfire in September 2007 (at Myer's Point in Lansing) when we were introduced by a mutual friend.

This month's ICON meeting had the theme of "The First Annual ICON Build A Successful Consultancy Cook-Off!".

Here's my recipe (following the ingredients Bob recommended):

1 spicy marketing idea that anyone can use to promote their business:
Develop a stronger referral relationship with your referral partners by promoting them. Here are the steps:
-Introduce a member of your network to a person or acquaintance of yours; describe your network member’s background and business and how well she performs.
-Let the other person know that if he or she ever needs the kind of products or services offered by your network member, he or she should not hesitate to call him.
-Promote your network member as often as possible, whether or not he is present – for example, by nominating him for an award or using him as an example in presentations and introductions.

2 freshly-ground ounces of time-management tips:
My favorite time-management tip is to network in the right place. Identify your target market – and network where they play. Even better – identify the professions of your referral partners – and network with them (they’ll be a gateway to a lot of the right clients for you).

3 dollops of lightly sugared (nutrasweet is o.k.) motivational; or inspirational quotes you like:
“If you are coasting, it means you are going downhill.” C.P. Fulford, Jr.
“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” William Saroyan
“Only those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” Robert Kennedy

4 sliced and diced business resource suggestions such as books or websites that you like:
and 5 business cards to pass out to people you meet (add as many of these as you want as garnish!)

I liked the group. I think having a place where independent consultants can see other consultants and exchange what works, what they like to do, and what kind of help they are looking for is valuable for anyone who has to wear many hats in their business. It is a chance to get out of the home office and come out of the metaphorical cave.

The next ICON Monthly Meeting:
April 13th, 2010 at 4:00 p.m.
Free and Open to the Public

Audrey Edelman RealtyUSA
2333 N. Triphammer Road
Ithaca, New York

Contact Bob Steinkamp for more information:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

5 Reasons for 5 Minutes

I recently spent five minutes on the phone with a new referred client. What do you say to your newly referred prospects? It is not only the first impression, it also might be the only five minutes you have together. Do you have 5 reasons (or topics) to make sure you cover in that 5 minute phone call?

Here are five reasons to spend five minutes on the phone with me:

1. The Referral Institute is a consulting company - we consult with business owners to develop the right referral marketing plan for their business - finding the right partners and training them the right ways to generate referrals.

2. We help you connect with the people you already know - business owners know a lot of people from a lot of different places in their lives - some of these people can be great referral partners for your business. We help you identify which people are the best sources for your business.

3. We provide you with simple steps to take - It is simple, it just isn't easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it and everyone would have more business than they could handle. The steps I guide you along are easy and are possible to do to find success in word of mouth marketing.

4. We allow you to take control - it is your referral marketing plan, your relationships, your time, your financial gain. You can take control of how your referrals are coming to your business.

5. We work to effectively make a plan to help the right people and help you create Referrals for Life. Referrals are about relationships and relationships are about people. When you help someone grow their business - and you provide easy ways for them to help you - they will help you grow your business.

If the client on my phone is referable then I might invite them to check out my Referral Success 101 class. If only one of the traits is missing from the list - we might be able to figure out how to improve that in the next five minutes of the call - probably by me referring them to another business professional. If they aren't referable - and they are unwilling to change or develop their referable traits - then I might recommend a marketing, advertising, or direct mail consultant to help them get their message out - as long as they are looking to grow their business.

I challenge all entrepreneurial sales people to be able to get their phone pitch down to five minutes. This is your message to someone who has been referred into your business. You'll be able to save time - both yours and your potential clients.

It can also act as a great information piece for your referral partners!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Are you referable?

One of the most common questions I get asked as a referral marketing consultant is 'Why are people not giving me referrals?'. It is a tough question - but knowing that you have a problem is a step in the right direction. To figure out the answer to the question I first start out with the very difficult question of 'Are you referable?'.

What does 'Are you referable?' mean? What makes you referable is going to be completely different than what makes your strategic partner referable and what makes me referable. Right? Well, probably wrong.

There are common traits in people that are referable. The Referral Institute uses some of these traits in identifying our target market. The people we can help with their business are people that are already referable. We focus on helping them find the right referral partners and teach them the right tools, tips, and techniques to make their 'referable-ness' function effectively. We do this so they can work less and earn more.

What if they aren't referable? Well - we spend time helping them with that too.

So what are these traits of a referable person? The traits of our target market? What makes you referable?
  • Are you an expert in your field? I'm putting my reputation on the line for you - you better know what you are talking about and that you can perform.
  • Are you relational? Are you going to treat the people I refer to you (my family, friends, and clients) like a person or like a number? Is that next client a person or an invoice?
  • Are you a life long learner? Will you be patient to listen to a potential client? Do you enjoy learning about people and their needs?
  • Are you coachable? Your referral partners are going to have to teach you how to listen and how to introduce them to potential clients.
  • Are you an entrepreneur? Do you believe in and have a strong passion for your business? If you don't have a passion for your work - I may wonder if you'll complete the job you've asked for.
  • Do you apply your expertise to your own life? Look at what you are trying to have people refer you for - your products and services. Do you use them yourself?
  • Are you doing some kind of networking today? People like to refer people to people that are outside of their cave and are visible. Come out to play and people will want to and be able to refer you better.
If you can answer yes to all of these bullets - you are referable! If you are still having trouble turning from being 'referable' to getting referrals my Referral Success 101 class might be right for you.

Upcoming classes are March 3rd at 5:30pm and March 10th at 9:30am. Details available here: - Click 'Programs' and select 'Referral Success 101'.