Forgive, So You Can Truly Live: via HuffPost

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” Forgive, So You Can Truly Live: ~ Oprah Winfrey via HuffPost

Notes from a conference call with BNI Founder Dr. Ivan Misner

I was on a conference call which included a conversation with Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder & Chairman of BNI (Business Network International.)  Founded in 1985, with over 6150 chapters all over the world and with 143,000 members, BNI is considered the #1 business networking organization on the planet.

Dr Misner shared his thoughts on how professionals can effectively build a business network. Here are a few of my notes from the conference call:

  • There’s no quick way to build a network, it takes time – six to 12 months.
  • Trying to pitch at a networking event is the wrong approach, it requires a relationship. Ask for a show of hands at any networking event. “How many are here to sell?” [all hands up!] “How many are here to buy?” “Anyone, anyone?”  [no hands]
  • Building a referral network is more like farming than hunting. A growing season is required before the harvest.
  • Profitable referral relationships get built through the VCP process
Visibility I know who you are and what you do.
Credibility I know who you are, what you do and now know that you’re good at it!
Profitability I know who you are, what you do and how good you are to the point that I am willing to refer you to people who trust me and my word.
  • While over 91% of surveyed professionals cite networking as a role in their success, this skill is not taught in school. We need to learn this skill set through training, books and experience.
  • The average “networker” spends six 1/2 hours per week in networking activities.  Doing better than average requires eight to ten hours.

Dr. Misner recommends diversifying your networking through multiple streams of contacts

  1. A network of casual contacts like the chamber of commerce.
  2. A network of knowledge contacts, people you meet while enhancing your skills (e.g.. Toastmasters)
  3. A network of strong contacts where members are committed to each other’s success. (e.g. BNI, BRNG, etc.)
  4. An online network like Linked In, Twitter and Facebook.

The interview also included a discussion on sales processes using a script or a “from the heart” conversation.  Dr Misner advised sales professionals to “tell a story” that includes four components.

  1. Give them a fact.
  2. Wrap the fact within emotion
  3. …that compels people to take action,
  4. …that will transform them in a meaningful way.

Getting back to networking, Dr Misner touched on the GAINS system utilized by BNI chapters.  When networking participants share their Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Network and Skills, it makes it easier for relationships to progress from visible to credible to profitable.

Dr. Misner agreed with authors Tom Hopkins, Joe Girard and Harvey McKay – the unexpected thank you or expression of gratitude is a very powerful way to strengthen and build upon hard earned relationships.  For that, my SendOutCards account works very well.

Watch “The Gratitude Challenge” YouTube video

The Gratitude Challenge: Send a heartfelt card of thanks, gratitude and appreciation every day, for 30 days. I guarantee a dramatic positive response. Watch the 3 minute video about why we express gratitude to those we care for:

Brand Management vs. Experience Management

I have been reading “Clued In” by author Lewis Carbone.

There is plenty of attention today on “brand building,” that is, what you project to affect customers’ impression of your business.

Carbone stresses a reverse approach, literally “customer-back.” It starts by identifying the emotions customers want to feel as a result of the experience.

“You can put  bug-ridden software in a pretty box, put shabby clothes on a big-name model, or spend millions of dollars hyping a movie before it debuts at the multi-plex.  But as soon as customer have their experiences, their word-of-mouth reviews will define your future and fortunes. Significantly, those reviews are more credible than any brand polishing efforts you can commission precisely because they reflect how customers felt during real experiences.  Experience truly is the best teacher.”

Carbone cites Starbucks, Disney and even Roto-Roter as examples of the progression from a customer commodity to a product to a service and ultimately to an experience.

As Carone puts it, “”when businesses place more emphasis on how the customer creates value for the company instead of the company creating value for the customer, customers become free agents, disappointed, disgruntled and ultimately disloyal.” (back to the customer retention issue, again.)

What do you say, can you think of another company that truly provides its customers with the emotional experience that sets it apart from its competition?


October 16: National Boss’s Day

What do people do on National Boss’s Day?

Boss’s Day is dedicated to all employers and provides a prospect of improving the workplace relationships between employers and their staff.  This observance also gives employees a chance to recognize those in supervisory positions.

Some people give their bosses cards, gift certificates, or flowers on Boss’s Day. This observance is becoming increasingly popular in various workplaces.


The concept of National Boss Day began in 1958 when Patricia Bays Haroski, then an employee at State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Illinois, registered the holiday with the United States Chamber of Commerce. She designated October 16 as the special day because it was her father’s birthday. Haroski’s purpose was to designate a day to show appreciation for her boss and other bosses. She also hoped to improve the relationship between employees and supervisors.

Four years later in 1962, Illinois Governor Otto Kerner backed Haroski’s registration and officially proclaimed the day. The event’s popularity is growing outside the United States and is now also observed in countries such as Australia, India, and South Africa.

This is a great day to express appreciation to that mentor, supervisor or boss helping you with your career.

Here’s a way to send him or her a Thank You greeting card.

It’s free – as my thanks to you, a reader of my blog.

Here’s what to do: click on this link.  You will be brought to a web page where you can watch a short video, select a real card, add a photo if you wish, personalize the message, and add the recipient’s name and address.  Tell us when to put it in the mail; we’ll add the postage and deliver this to your employer in time for October 16 National Boss’s Day.

How to “Competition Proof” Your Business with Mark S A Smith


“Do Your Customers Refuse to Buy from Anyone Else?”

Click here and listen to the full 15 minute interview


In this 15 minute episode, Dan and his guest Mark S A Smith, co-author of three books in the “Guerrilla Marketing” series, discuss ways by which entrepreneurs can make their business “competition proof.”  While many business owners cite “price” as the primary reason customers defect to the competition, Mark’s blog includes examples of how business owners create value and deliver products in a way that customers refuse to from anyone else, regardless of price.  [Sign up for Mark’s blog e-mail or follow Competition Proof on Facebook.

Gracias, Merci, Grazie….Thank You

After the holidays, it’s easy to view thank you note writing as a chore, but author John Kralik says that sincerity is the best approach — he encourages people to focus on one true, meaningful sentence about the gift or the person. The notes don’t have to be long, Kralik explains; sometimes limiting yourself to just a few sentences forces you to distill your sentiments.  As for Facebook or email thank-yous? “Things we write in cyberspace are so easily deleted and forgotten … buried by the next 30 e-mails we receive,” Kralik says. “In this day and age, a handwritten note is something that people really feel is special.”

Listen to a 6 minute NPR interview with Kralk, author of 365 Thank Yous: The Year A Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.

In his book, author Kralik explains how saying thank you 365 days can have a profound effect on your life. It can also help strengthen your business relationships. In the popular business book, “Appreciation Marketing” authors Tommy Wyatt and Curtis Lewsey describe the power in becoming The Appreciator, “one who practices the principles of appreciation and gratitude – in some capacity – every day.”  (Check out an earlier post about Joe Girard, the “World’s Greatest Salesman”)

Personally speaking, I need to get better at this and know I won’t start out next week by sending a thank you card every day.  However, I now have my first 2011 resolution, to start at one physical thank you card each week and to increase the pace so, by this time next year, I’ll be sending five thank you cards on a weekly basis.  Who wants to hold me accountable?  Care to join me and regularly thank those in your personal and professional life?

My best wishes to you and yours for a fresh new year of health, happiness and prosperity; and, of course, my sincere thanks to you!

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Connect with and retain customers using foursquare

Many of your customers with an i-Phone, Blackberry or Android mobile phone use foursquare to let their friends know where they are and what they think!

How does foursquare work?

Foursquare is a web and mobile application that allows 1.3 million (June 2010) registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded for “checking in” at venues. Users can choose to have their Twitter and/or their Facebook accounts updated when they check in.   If a user has checked-in to your location more than anyone else, on separate days, and they have a profile photo, they will be crowned “Mayor” of your location until someone else earns the title by checking in more times than the previous mayor.  Users can add “Tips” to your location  that other users can read, which serve as a review or suggestions for great things to do, see or eat at your location.

In February 2010, the company entered into new commercial partnerships with Zagat, Bravo, Conde Nast, The New York Times and several other firms to offer tips, specials and new badges to followers.

How to use foursquare in your business

Readers of this blog know how much we focus on customer connection, appreciation and retention.  As a business owner, you can use foursquare to engage your increasingly mobile customers with foursquare “Specials,” which are  discounts and prizes you can offer your loyal customers when they check in on foursquare at your business.  Customer Appreciation is at its best when you show extra attention, and gratitude, to your foursquare Mayor!  Additionally, if you offer foursquare Specials to your customers, you will be able to track how your venue is performing over time thanks to a robust set of activity analytics — for free!   And, of course, your on-premises interaction with your foursquare customer offers a great opportunity to obtain their contact information for follow up video email, postcards and greeting cards throughout the year.

A Getting Started Gift

Call or email Dan Alcorn at (800) 503 -1972 today for complimentary help with getting started. We’ll start by claiming your venue’s location from within the foursquare system.  Then, we ‘ll establish the online foursquare settings for the incentives you will offer your first time “check ins” and, of course, the current Mayor!

Even kids know…

What does this Ally Bank television ad have to do with customer retention?

“Can I have some ice cream, please?  No, it’s just for new people. ….

Yeah, but I’m new, too.  Umm, he’s new……er than you.

Even kids know it’s wrong to treat new friends better than old friends. “

In CRM Guru’s survey of customers who had defected, 83 percent of the respondents said an event “triggered” their decision to go to the competition.  Often, the customers had been with a company for a long time when they stopped doing business.  Even so, the “last straw” from the customer’s perspective isn’t always obvious to the business.  But the customers’ defections may have gone unnoticed by the business.  Why?  91 percent of the customers never heard anything from the business about the defection.

In a recent presentation to business leaders about , I addressed 7 Steps To Retain the Right Customers.  In the Ally Bank video,  the ice cream vendor offering sweet incentives to attract new customers may have bungled two of the 7 Steps in keeping your best customers:

  • Treat Valuable Customers Well -  When planning your program to retain customers, you also want to determine which customers to focus on, namely:  which ones are the most valuable for your business and would be the most costly to lose? (We will assume that the boy not getting an ice cream cone was also a profitable customer)
  • Be Fair, Even When You Don’t Have To – A mobile phone company discovered that when the company offered to switch customers to their best available plan, retention among high-value customers increased dramatically; even if the customer didn’t take advantage of the better plan.  How do you feel when a company you do business with suggests a better product and saves you money?

How does this apply for your business?

Recently, I had a conversation with an account executive of Rewards Network.  Restaurants that participate in this company’s program pay into a fund which rewards members for dining within the network.   Some owners question ongoing rewards for individuals who are already a customer.   Just like that ice cream vendor, many business owners are so focused on acquiring new customers that it’s almost as if they have a sign outside their shop announcing “Welcome New Customers Only.”

When the average American business loses 10% of its customer base each year, business owners soon recognize that the greatest assets in a business are not on the books, they are intangible. Every customer, every contact, every relationship, every sales channel, every employee.   It costs five to eight times more to generate the same amount of revenue from a prospect than an existing customer.  Your current profitable customers cost less to service, buy more frequently and are more likely to make referrals. Treat them well, treat them fair (give him that ice cream cone!) and watch how an improved retention rate will boost  your bottom line profits.

Visit or call (800) 503-1972 to discuss a customer connection, appreciation and retention plan for your business.

Tools to follow-up and stay connected with your customers

In today’s post I have included this link to a mp3 replay in which Jordan Adler, author of Beach Money, discusses how he uses the SendOut Cards program to stay in contact with customers and contacts.

We all know of many business owners who are so busy working in their business they have little time left to work on their business.   These entrepreneurs know that the most important piece of their business is their loyal base of customers.  Still, many have no plan in place to connect with customers on a regular and personal basis.

In this mp3 replay, you will hear Adler describe how by your sending three greeting cards each day, over 1000 people  each year will feel more appreciated and positive towards you and your business.   (The “Rule of Reciprocity,”  a topic previously mentioned in this blog, means there is an unspoken feeling of obligation towards those who treat you in a certain way.)

Suggestions for your “Stay in Contact” program:

  • Stay in touch with your customers and contacts and keep it personal, simple and consistent
  • Make people feel important throughout their lives, not just during a sales process
  • Call them by telephone every six months
  • Send greeting cards every three or four months (Try the SendOut Cards program gift account)
  • Remember, your best customers are your competition’s top prospects.   It’s never too late to appreciate!


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