Weekly Meeting: Networking or Not Working?

April 6, 2009


ryan-seacrestby Lee Abraham


I’ll admit it. It took me a while to figure out this networking thing. Especially the value of meeting with other people face to face. Here’s the story. Way back in the mid ‘90s I was invited to join BNI (Business Network Int’l), a structured networking group to help grow my business. I was intrigued. And then I was told the group got together once a week to pass referrals.


At the time, I owned a Real Estate Appraisal company in Las Vegas and was busier than Ryan Seacrest on American Idol’s “Elimination Night.” Let’s just say I had my hands full with a few difficult and colorful authority figures (Loan Officers instead of judges) and other peoples’ desperate situations (Borrowers rather than contestants).


And although I had more work than I knew what to do with, I was changing my Target Market from the oppressive management style (“hit” the value or we stop sending you work) of the Banks and Mortgages Companies to the more intellectually rewarding practice of appraising for Lawyers and serving as an Expert Witness on a variety of Real Estate related lawsuits.


Bottom line: I needed help reaching out to the legal community to expand my client base. And the person who invited me to join BNI was one of the top Real Estate Attorneys in town. Can you say: mixed emotions? Yes, I liked the idea of networking, and I really wanted to build a relationship with this Attorney, but it was the once a week meeting that rubbed me the wrong way.


Admission of guilt: I didn’t see the point of getting together so often. After all, if I had something to say to someone in the group I could just call ‘em up and take care of business… right? Wrong! Motivated but under duress, I went through the motions. Guess what? The emotions followed. And so did the referrals!


Basic Etiquette 105 – Attendance at weekly networking meetings are critical to benefiting from a structured networking group.


Let’s face it, a lot of people expect to join a networking group, show up, tell the members about their business and then sit back and watch the referrals fly in. biz-meeting-5Sorry to burst your bubble, but success in networking requires time and energy. Why? Networking is all about relationships. Plain and simple. And nothing builds a relationship better than face to face interaction.


VCP Process®


Your first goal in a structured networking group is to achieve Visibility: people know who you are and what you do. From Visibility you reach for Credibility: people know you are good at what you do. And finally, the ultimate goal is Profitability: people send you business because they like you, trust you, and know you will make them look good in the eyes of the person they referred to you.


Coined by Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, these three stages of relationships among networking partners is known as the VCP Process®.


Trust me, you will not achieve VCP with your networking partners by sitting in your office on the phone and internet all day. If you are serious about building a referral network to grow your business, you need to invest time and develop relationships getting to know, like and trust your networking partners. Oh yeah, they need to get to know, like and trust you as well!


Don’t have the time? Let me ask you this. If your very best client asked to meet with you once a week as a prerequisite to sending you an ongoing stream of business would you find time? I’m betting you would. Write this down: Treat your networking group as your best client and it will be!


Build a Bridge, Get Over It


OK fine, I hear you. You just can’t make every single meeting.bridge From vacations and business trips to your child’s first Piano Recital and medical emergencies, life happens. Hey, get over it! Everybody’s got life happening, not just you. Like a wise man once said, “It’s not what happens in life that makes you successful, it’s how you respond.”


Let’s cut to the chase. We are talking about priorities and levels of commitment. Nobody expects you to be at every single meeting. That would be unrealistic. The answer? Find out next time with our discussion of having a substitute represent you at meetings you can’t attend, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter!


Twitter Success Formula: RT x @ (Twitter) = VCP (BNI)?

March 18, 2009


power-team2by Lee Abraham

Last time out, we looked into the three stages of a networking relationship: Visibility, Credibility and Profitability. Coined by Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI (Business Network Int’l) and world’s leading networking guru, the VCP Process® wraps the multi faceted and time consuming evolution of relationships from unknown stranger to trusted networking partner into a simple, easy to use formula.

Visibility – People know who you are and what you do

Credibility – People know you are reliable and good at what you do

Profitability – People send you business because they like you, trust you and know you will make them look good in eyes of people they refer to you.

VCP Online?

Old school networkers are sometimes labeled “hunters,” notching their well worn money belt for each business card collected and cold call made. And in many cases, the stereotype is warranted. Truth is, a lot of well intended and hard working entrepreneurs view business simply as a big numbers game: the more people they pitch, the more chances of hitting a home run. 

And that’s why the internet is so attractive. Networking online has huge upside for massive, international exposure at little or no cost. Blend in the potential for “Viral Growth” of your message, people telling other people, and you’ve got Word-of-mouth networking on steroids. At least on the surface.

From You Tube and Facebook, to Linkedin and Twitter, the internet has leveled the marketing playing field. Visibility to a huge audience is more possible than ever before. But here’s the rub, while the internet is very effective for Visibility, online-13how the heck can you reach Credibility, and ultimately Profitability, with people you’ve never met, and in some cases, have never even spoken to? 

Be Present

A well rounded online presence usually includes at least two, and often several more, of the most popular Social Networking websites. For starters, a profile on Linkedin or Ecademy is the cyber foundation needed to build a business network online. 

Viewed as professionalism and core competence, if you don’t have a profile online, (OK, let’s include the more social and less professional Facebook as well), you are facing a credibility challenge with your online Target Market. Call it the age of “information entitlement.” People expect to see your face, know a little about your background and experience, as well as how to contact you, so they can check you out further if they choose.

Next, a website or blog to showcase you and your work is also a must. Coupled with a Profile, a webpage rounds out the information on your company, products and services, as well as offering a glimpse into your personality and business philosophy.  

Are You Smelling What I’m Stepping In? 

Profile and webpage in place, you are now ready for marketing and promotion. Like a restaurant and customers, your internet presence only serves a purpose if the people in your Target Market visit to sample the goods. And we all know getting people to do anything is a challenge. 

Enter Twitter. A Visibility machine, smell1Twitter is a mass text messaging service where you send updates to ‘Followers” who “Opt In.” Let me reiterate: Followers choose to follow your footsteps, and in the bargain, smell what you step in. At least online. 

And because they’ve chosen to receive your updates, Followers are more receptive to directives, particularly if they are easy and non threatening. Like clicking a link to your latest blog post, for example. 

In other words, Twitter is a broadcasting mechanism for your Personal Brand, enabling you to communicate efficiently and effectively with the network you’ve built. Got something to say? Step up toward Visibility and start Tweeting!

Join the Conversation

Standing on your Twitter soapbox is an easy way to “join the conversation.” To play on the game board. To star in your own movie. Whatever the metaphor, the act of participating, engaging, and ultimately communicating with other people moves you and your Personal Brand from Visibility to Credibility.

Some of the most common types of Tweets include:

What you are doing

What you think


Cool links

Don’t take this personally, megaphone21but people only care about what you are doing if they admire you, want something from you, are responsible for you, or love you. Otherwise, you need to be doing something extremely interesting for people to care. 

Advice: save the updates on the bagel and lox you had for breakfast and that funny story of getting grossed out by the dirty nose of a person sitting next to you on a plane, for your memoirs. OK, once in a while go ahead and show a little flair with an American Idol pick or the overtime score of your favorite hoop squad, fine, but generally speaking, keep the personal byplay down to a minimum until you’ve got a ‘Following’ that cares.

What Were You Thinking?

What you think is another story. Please tell us what you think. Of course what you are thinking about, and how well you articulate the vision, will dictate if we care. Generally speaking, if you have a thought you think is interesting, share it. Chances are good some folks will agree that you’ve got something valuable to say.

For the less creative among us, Tweeting links to useful or fun websites, as well as news articles, inspirational quotes, jokes or photos you find interesting, are great ways to provide value to the people following you. 

Even better, be a Twitter Journalist, reporting first hand on events and news you are involved in or find yourself in the middle of. Now that’s interesting! People living vicariously through your experiences which they would otherwise never be exposed to (bagels and boogers NOT included) is the stuff that explodes viral growth of your Personal Brand.

Visibility in Action

Subtle point: everyone Following you sees your @replies. So even if you are replying to someone they’ve never heard of, your peeps see you working, and you gain big “V” in the process!

Interacting on Twitter starts with a reply (@reply) to something someone Tweets. action-2Sharing a similar experience, congratulating an achievement, agreeing or disagreeing on an opinion, or whatever, as long as you are interacting, you are working toward Visibility when you reply to another Tweeter. 

Let’s crank it up a notch. Did you find someone’s Tweet informative or valuable? Share it with your Followers by “Re-Tweeting” (RT) the message.

A good RT has two benefits. Not only will you enjoy increased Visibility with your Followers who appreciate the value you bring to the conversation with an interesting RT, but you jump start Visibility and instantly move toward Credibility with the person whose message you RT. After all, you are helping the original Tweeter leverage their efforts, and as a part of their promotional network you become valuable to them. 

RT x @replies = C

A good sign that you are gaining Visibility on Twitter is other people replying to your updates. Other Tweeters are obviously taking note of what you are saying and have something to add. Nice!

And you know you are navigating the tightrope toward Credibility when other people “Re-Tweet” (RT) your updates. high-wire-actIn other words, they like what you have to say and pass along your message and contact info to all the people following them. And if some of those people do the same, now you’ve got the Viral word-of-mouth campaign that lures millions of business people online every day.

Two words: Give Value. The more “@replies” and RT’s you Tweet, the more people you are interacting with and the greater the chance of those people caring about what you have to say and Re-Tweeting it. And the more RTs you get, the greater your Visibility and Credibility. At least on Twitter. 

Next time, we stretch the VCP limit to reach Profitability online with people you’ve never met, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter!  

Contact Sphere = Networking Platform!

January 23, 2009

Every business person I talk to these days is looking for more business. NOW! The sense of urgency is palpable. Unfortunately, overnight success stories are far and few between. Sad, but true.


And we all know advertising is no quick fix. Face it: consumers suffer from information overload, numb to a sales pitch from any person or business they are not already connected to. More than ever, people will only do business with people they like and trust.


Not too long ago, when someone needed a new product or service they were limited to asking friends and family about who they knew, or rolling the dice, trying to get lucky in the Yellow Pages. Now we can go to Twitter and ask our network for referrals in real time and perform our own Due Diligence searching Google.


Bottom line: Information is moving faster and faster, but the source is more important than ever. You and I will gravitate toward doing business with people we like and trust. And that’s true whether you are building your business online, in person or over the phone.


The same is also true in reverse. People you never met will contact you to do business if someone they know and trust gave a strong enough recommendation about you. Particularly if that certain someone is in a business related to yours. Say a Florist recommending a Caterer or a Business Coach recommending a Website Specialist or Marketing Guru.


So let’s start building your business by networking strategically with other businesses that can work for the same client as you and will compliment what you are doing without becoming your competition. Let’s start creating your Power Team referral network!


Ideally, the people on your Power Team will act as your “Bragging Buddy,” a networking partner who makes the prospect, in many cases their current client, understand that you are the best possible person they could work with for the particular product or service you represent. 


Copyright 2009 Lee Abraham

Copyright 2009 Lee Abraham

 Start With Your Contact Sphere


Your business fits into one of six time tested relationships known as a Contact Sphere, a group of related business categories which traditionally pass business referrals back and forth. Knowing which Contact Sphere you are in, and which business categories your Contact Sphere is missing, makes it easier to find some of the key people you are looking for. People who will help build your networking platform and become top performers on your Power Team.   

 Where Do You Fit?


The illustration above is limited to only six business categories per Contact Sphere, and is far from perfect… there are gray areas for several businesses that could easily fit into one group or another.


If you are in a profession that is not listed, choose the Contact Sphere that seems most applicable. Rest assured that whichever Contact Sphere you choose will not eliminate the other from your networking efforts. We simply have to start somewhere, so make a choice!


Action Step: Take a note on all the business categories listed in your Contact Sphere. Start thinking about people you already know in these professions, people who are good at what they do and are looking to grow their business.  


Next time out, we will “Find Your Keys,” and unlock the hidden relationships and referral opportunities among different Contact Spheres, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow Me on Twitter

Power in Words

January 20, 2009

Power Team Concepts and Terms
 A System of Organizing Business Categories 

Our ultimate goal is to create a Power Team that generates an ongoing stream of money making referrals for your business. These networking partners are the most elite group of business contacts you have.  

To truly understand what separates your Power Team from everybody else, let’s split some analytical hairs together and dial in a few concepts and definitions. 

Copyright 2009 Lee Abraham
Copyright 2009 Lee Abraham

Concept #1:  All the people/businesses in the world, whether you are connected to them or not.


Recognizing the total spectrum, or Universe of business categories and people in the world is another way of saying that you have an idea of who and what is “out there” as the talent pool for building your Power Team. This is an essential step to take inventory and identify the business categories and people you need on your Power Team. 

Concept #2: All the people/businesses you are currently connected to.

Term: Network 

Everybody you’ve ever met in person, or have a direct connection to online, over the phone, or otherwise, is a potential Network partner or source of something you need, in one of three areas:

         Referrals – Sources of Business Opportunities
         Information – Expertise and Experience
         Support – Help and Encouragement

Concept #3: Businesses that are related and can work for the same client, complimenting but not competing with each other. (examples: Florist, Caterer and Photographer; Chiropractor, Massage and Nutrition; Realtor, Mortgage and Home Inspector; etc.)

Term: Contact Sphere

Understanding how your business fits into time tested relationships among Contact Spheres of related business categories which traditionally pass referrals back and forth is critical in the formation of your Power Team.  

Knowing which Contact Sphere you are in, and which business categories your Contact Sphere is missing, makes it easier to find the networking partners you need to complete your Power Team. 

Concept #4: People/businesses from one or more Contact Sphere who actively promote and strategically network together with the intention of building each others’ business and exchanging more referrals.

Power Team

As opposed to a simple Contact Sphere, in which even the least skilled or motivated networker is an occasional referral “order taker” for a related business (examples: Realtors for the Mortgage person, Massage Therapist for the Chiropractor), Power Teams work diligently together to create more business for each other on an ongoing basis regardless of whether or not they are in related businesses.

Examples: Jeweler who recommends a CPA and Attorney specializing Estate Planning to every young couple purchasing a wedding or engagement ring (“Wedding” Power Team), or the Air Conditioning Contractor who always recommends a Nutritional Supplement providor to every customer hiring them to clean out air conditioning ducts and install air filtration systems as way to help stop sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes (“Allergy” Power Team).

Next time out, a quick description of the Six Contact Spheres pictured above, when our adventure in networking continues… (Follow Me on Twitter)

Follow me on Twitter!

January 17, 2009


January 17th, 4:26 am


We are picking up momentum! The turnout for last week’s webcast with Beth Anderson was terrific. Lots of folks joined us for the first time and the feedback we are getting in response to our focus on LinkedIn and other online networking websites has been overwhelmingly favorable.


Speaking of networking online, there’s a lot going on here at the Anytime/Anywhere Studios. For starters, I’ve been exploring the wild and wacky world of Twitter. From my vantage point, Twitter is like a mass text messaging service. In other words, you type up a brief message (140 characters or less), push ‘send’ and the message goes out to all the peopled who ‘opt in’ to receive your updates.


That’s right, people actually choose to “follow” your Twitter messages! Why? Because they are interested in what you have to say. In that sense, Twitter’s underlying function is really no different than people taking the time to join us for the FAST180 webcast, or visiting the website or blog to check up on our news. It’s all about sharing information.


But there are two key differences. Rather than simply posting information on a blog and passively hoping people visit, Twitter functions as a press release, giving you the power to notify your peeps that you’ve been at it again, cranking out some high octane material, with a link to your website, where they will find new and exciting stuff to explore.   


And in itself, the ‘announcement’ function is huge. Getting the word out is critical. But Twitter’s bigger benefit is the potential for explosive audience growth.


Here’s the deal: In addition to the ongoing power struggle of who has the biggest following, Twitter culture includes an informal competition of who can be the first to tell the group about an awesome new (insert any product, service, opinion or news item), which in turn, leads to more people checking out your messages. And those new followers tell their people, and so on. Call it “Viral” growth.


The potential result: a growing number of “followers” that can snowball into serious, exponential momentum. Example: it is not unusual for very active Twitter peeps to have a following of tens of thousands of people. Can you say: Marketer’s Playground?


For me right now, building a loyal Twitter following is a primary focus as we move step-by-step, building the FAST180 platform to launch the upcoming Power Team book to bestseller status when released later this year.


Progress so far: I started with Twitter on Christmas day (a free present to myself!) and as this journal is posted, I currently follow 81 people and 80 people following me. 


Maybe half of the people following me are folks I decided to follow based on recommendations from others, and in turn, some of those people responded by following me. Other followers just sorta pop up and join the parade, and I have no idea what path lead them to my door.


So, I’m learning about all sorts of strategies to build a huge Twitter following in a short amount of time, but that is not my goal. Yes, I want huge numbers. Maybe 10,000 or so when the book comes out. But I want the quality of the content to attract the following, rather than signing up to follow tons of people in hopes that they will follow me in return.


Like anything, the more you dig into something, the more you learn. Believe me, I’m learning alot each and every day. For me, using Twitter as a way to announce new blog entries, upcoming FAST180 webcasts as well as sharing cool websites and valuable information is a very stimulating activity. But it’s the material itself that remains the priority. Wanna know more? Follow me on Twitter! 

Jack of all Twitter, Part 1 – Say What?

January 11, 2009

Blogging doesn’t happen. There’s work involved. And if you are like me, when there’s a job to do, my first tendency is to try to do the job myself. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes not so good.


Consider the wide range of activities that need to happen for an idea, spinning around abstractly in your imagination as a concept, to finding its way out of your head, onto the internet, bouncing around with a life of its own.


Adequacy isn’t good enough. Material has to be sharp and provide value. The internet is a huge audience, and reaching that audience is a monumental challenge. These days, most people (except maybe your Mom, heirs to your Will, and the family dog) are too busy to care about all the details of your life, your problems and most of all, your opinions.


Don’t believe me? Look around. Is it just me, or is everyone dazed and confused from information overload and macro economic meltdown? Quick reality check: did you receive more or less Christmas cards than last year? I’m betting the under. Why? Too much info day in and day out has numbed the collective consciousness, tapping the energy needed to communicate, to the point of societal distraction and inactivity.


In today’s world, it’s a crap shoot whether or not a friend will read and respond to an email about your personal news, or return a phone call. Don’t take it personal. People are on overload! Imagine the degree of magnetic attraction needed to interest cyberspace peeps, or at least a statistically significant percentage of them, into caring enough about your opinion on your topic of choice to make the effort to visit your blog check it out.


And that ladies and gentlemen, is where I’m at today. I’m trying to crack the code of mass online impact. I want to find out how some folks reach millions of people and then help other authors, artists and do-gooders of all stripes do the same.


All this set up leads me to a formula I started putting together for publishing blog posts. The idea is to break down the steps into a system of developing an idea from grain to biscuits into a blog post we can all be proud of.


The goal is to measure self sufficiency in all steps required to create and manage intellectual property promoted online with WordPress, Twitter, and others. For me personally, I’m trying to identify where I need to bring in an expert with real internet skills to take my material to the next level. But in the mean time, as someone still doing all the work myself, I’m trying to learn as much as I can.


So anyway, I started putting together the formula. While my intentions were good, it turns out to be more than a sit down and get ‘er done kind of deal, so I’m breaking this piece into two parts.


Today, I’m just going to identify the variables the formula includes. Seems to me that the more of these steps completed, and how well they are executed, will result in how many people on the net give a rat’s patootty about what I, or anybody else, has got to say.


Here’s the criteria:
 -Am I creating unique content with my own voice and message?

-Am I utilizing all aspects of online media (audio, video, graphics, etc.) to project my message? 

-Am I contributing on a regular, frequent basis?

-Am I my own webmaster, creating my own website or blog with DreamWeaver, WordPress or something similar?

-Do I update my blog/website myself?

-Does my blog/website have all the slick bells and whistles, RSS feeds, links, widgets, subscribers, store…

-Am I promoting my material online with LinkedIn, Twitter, email tags, WordPress, MySpace and Facebook announcements, and other outlets?

-Am I promoting my material with word-of-mouth networking by meeting face-to-face with people?

-Do I have a business angle? Am I creating content online for personal satisfaction or to make money (either directly or indirectly)? What is my Product or Service?


OK, so that’s the criteria. At least most of it. I’m sure there’s more. Please send me any thoughts or comments about what goes into creating and managing the intellectual property you post online and promote. I’d love to know what you are up to and what’s working!


So in the spirit of quality control and production output, I’m going to get this info off my word processor and out on WordPress. I will now tweak before I twitter the rest (as in tweak the formula before tweating its completion). So please check back with me next time for “Jack of all Twitter Part 2 – Your Score!” next time when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter

Books, Music and Other Good Things in 2009!

December 23, 2008

December 22, 6:45 am


The final FAST180 webcast for 2008 is in the books! Now we get a two week break to enjoy the Holidaze and make plans for the New Year.


Like a lot of people right now, I’m under the gun to make some good things happen in 2009. While 2008 had many highlights, it has also been…, shall we say, a “character builder!” Bottom line: lots of folks are getting their asses kicked financially in the current economy. As they say, “this too shall pass.” Comforting? Maybe. After all, the same logic applies to kidney stones as well… OUCH!  


Sick humor aside, you don’t have to listen too closely to hear the stress in peoples’ voices. Blinding flash of the obvious: times are tough. If not for you, then for someone you know.


OK, let’s keep the chin up. Things are going to turn around. And the more time and energy invested into the solution, the faster change will happen. Are you ready for a FAST180? As collective wisdom says “It isn’t what happens that counts, it’s how you react.” OK, sounds good, but what is the best reaction to the current economy?


For me it starts with finishing up a few misc. projects that have been lingering on the back burner for a while. Case in point, a book I just completed with my co-author Toni Brown. Toni was the longtime Editor and publisher of Relix, a music magazine based out of New York City that evolved from a hand typed newsletter for tape traders of Grateful Dead bootleg recordings to connect and trade tapes back in the early 1970’s into a top shelf music magazine with international distribution, a record label, merchandise division and rabid readership that loves live music. It really is a great story and the book is a very visual retrospective of Relix early years. 


Toni has really done all the heavy lifting in this project and my hat is off to her! Same with Ed, Toni’s husband. Ed’s doing all the layout work and is truly crafting a masterpiece! We are in the final stages of sending the finished manuscript and layout to the publisher (BackBeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing), which will be sent off in a matter of days. Toni’s done a great job and I am very excited to see the finished product!


The Relix book is four color ink from cover to cover with tons of great rock and roll photos, articles, interviews and artwork from Relix first 25 years. Can you say: “Eye Candy?” Distribution will not only include the bookstores but also stores that sell musical equipment, reaching our hard core music freak target market with laser like precision!


So for me, I will finally have a new product to sell (other than real estate) to diversify my income streams. Don’t get me wrong, I write because I love writing and will always find a creative outlet to wreak my personal brand of literary havoc, but the business of intellectual property is my focus for 2009. I just get excited about books and all the side projects that spin off in unforeseen directions.  


So marketing the Relix book is on my to-do list. Fortunately, my co-author Toni is a high profile musician on the live music/festival scene and she is, pardon the pun, jamming on this thing full time!


The book is scheduled to launch in the 3rd quarter of next year. I need to get busy now on building some strategic relationships to support the book selling campaign.


I’m going to start with two old friends who have been in the music biz full time for many years. Lee Crumpton is the founder of Leeways’ Homegrown Music Network, an awesome marketing and merchandise fulfillment service that has helped hundreds of independent touring bands (usually 200 shows a year) sell CDs and other merch to keep their act on the road.


I will also speak with Mark Huff, a phenomenal singer/songwriter who has opened for musical icons Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and many, many more.


Both contacted me within days of signing up for MySpace a month or two ago. While we’ve exchanged emails, I haven’t had a good opportunity to call and say hello. That’s gonna change in the next few days.


These days, ‘social networking’ and online marketing are the big buzzwords in the world of business. Lots of people (like me) are taking a serious look at this stuff for the first time, diving in head first with LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc.


Guess what? Musicians and record companies have doing the cyber dance for over a decade! In a lot of ways, the music industry was the first private sector group to start networking online, after the scientists, academics, and computer nerds got the thing rolling in the early ‘80s.


So I guess I hear myself saying that the FAST180 is going to feature some of these music biz insiders to share what they’ve learned, and the mistakes they’ve made, building their businesses online.


Now I’m excited! Where’s the phone? I’m ready to make some calls…check back soon and find out how the conversations went, next time when our adventure in networking continues… (Follow me on Twitter)