Posts Tagged ‘BNI’

Can Social Media Replace Face-to-Face Networking? Part Two

May 3, 2010

Part Two

The Baby Boomer generation grew up without computers. Televisions were just making inroads into the typical American home. Color TVs were expensive and rarely found. Telephone calls were mostly measured by the calls and numbers of minutes. Long distance was used sparingly because you paid by the minute to the Ma Bell monopoly and it wasn’t cheap (that hasn’t changed). You couldn’t find a cell phone or pager. Video conferencing was only used by Dick Tracy and in space movies. Personal music was a 33 or 45 rpm record on your home record player or perhaps a reel-to-reel tape deck if you were sophisticated. Portability was only found in your AM-FM radio.

As technology advanced and Baby Boomers became parents, they saw the need to teach their children by funding the latest technology in the schools. In the 1980’s, the personal computer started a revolution that has rivaled any technology advance in any culture in human history. Apple and IBM slugged it out in the schools for dominance but every school system in the USA planned and acquired computer laboratories. Students took new skills classes for keyboarding, researching and using word processors or spreadsheets. Kids were exposed to the new technology at earlier and earlier ages until it was normal for them.

Contrast that to technology that we enjoy today. Everything is portable and instantly available. What we consider normal are large screen HD TVs, tiny cell phones that get Internet and email, music on iPods and books on Kindles. We have 3G and 4G networks that let our air cards connect our laptops and IP phones to the Internet anywhere we sit down. Seemingly crazy people walking down the street talking and laughing to themselves usually have a Bluetooth StarTrek device in their ear and really are talking to another person. We never have to be out of touch. is that a blessing or a curse?

How has all of this advancement in technology and the way we depend upon it changed our interactions with each other? Baby Boomers grew up playing board games or outdoor sports together in groups large and small. They read analog books by manually flipping page by page. They researched school reports by physically going to the libraries and searching card catalogs, followed by hoping to find the right volume in the stacks. Most of all, they talked to each other and developed specific social skills face-to-face. The modern child spends far too much time on an individual basis, entertaining themselves with personal games, music, TV, and online sites. There is just not the same emphasis placed on face-to-face interaction with other children. The learned personal skill sets are not the same and are less effective than the Baby Boomers who had to interact with each other.

Is it all a bad thing? No, not all of it. The modern child has grown up with advanced technology and is therefore more comfortable in using it. Where Baby Boomers are sometimes hesitant to try out a new variation on their computer or something radical like an iPad, the younger generations fully embrace and master them much faster. The advancements coming out today are driven by the imagination of the younger generations that grew up with computer technology. They own the future. Just ask them.

So then how has this change in generational knowledge and skills affected how people do business together? Does the Baby Boomer that is comfortable doing face-to-face networking have an edge over the more technical younger business person? Does the younger networker have and use the advantage of multiple methods of connection at their fingertips that much better than the Baby Boomer? Which method is more likely to build the trust and confidence necessary to convince the contact to become a client?

In Part Three we will investigate how Social Media developed into what we know it is today and how it has changed the course of business.

Can Social Media Replace Face-to-Face Networking? Part One

May 2, 2010

Part One

As a classically trained scientist, I find it amusing when people say that there are no “killer apps” left to be discovered or created. What could possibly be invented that is exponentially better than what we have now? The human mind is always defining better ways to do things that we need and so there will always be new killer apps that come along. Are they for everyone? No, not at all. Can they benefit certain people in specific situations? Sure, depending upon needs, wants and costs.

When Sony came out with the Walkman for audio cassette tapes in 1979, it revolutionized how we listen to music. The concept of portable personal music later evolved into CDs, DVDs and MP3 players. Each new version was a stunning commercial success that reclassified its predecessors as buggy whips in the market as old replaced new. Now we see related concepts such as the Kindle revolutionizing book reading. Where will it end? It won’t!

In the world of Referral Marketing AKA Word of Mouth Referrals, we have a recent advancement known as Social Media. It started with online programs such as MySpace and Facebook and now includes hundreds of variations of ways to create online communities that share business and personal information with friends and strangers. Social media started getting serious in the 1990’s when people gained entry into the Internet as they acquired broadband service. It actually started in the 1980’s using BBSs on dialup modems but the hardware technology was too limiting and the depth of users was too small. At the time, face-to-face old fashioned networking was the skill you had to master. Referral organizations such as BNI (Business Network International) started in California in 1985 to refine those techniques and promote a successful method of building business.

Into the 2000’s, the penetration of broadband Internet continued to grow and a critical mass of users developed. Social networking became more and more popular as high school and college students made MySpace famous for being an almost exclusive social club for meeting each other online. For a while it was the opposite of the bars and pubs they couldn’t legally get into – you had to be a student to join MySpace and your parents weren’t allowed in. How cool was that? If Mommy and Daddy couldn’t see what was going on, then you could say what you really felt and post pictures online without the consequences being a factor. Party time 24 hours a day.

Eventually, just as if you heard the raucous party next door at all hours of the night,  adults wanted to see what was going on. They recognized that having an Internet community could be an interesting entity to create and use. Business people saw it as a way to attract new customers. Friends and family could use it to keep in touch better than Instant Messaging such as AIM, ICQ and MSN Messenger. Developers ran wild with new techniques and purposes for their versions of how people could connect with people.

The table was set. The people were ready. Businesses were willing to invest significant funds for development. The high school and college kids who were so happy with MySpace were grown up and in the workforce and in position to write new software. Their imagination was about to blossom and fill the niche with hundreds of ways to connect with each other. Opportunity was about to meet innovation and talent. The spectre of profits didn’t hurt, especially considering the size of the potential worldwide market. We call the concept “SaaS” (Software as a Service) today and it changed the way we use computers. OMG! It’s a killer app, dude!

In Part Two we will investigate how Baby Boomers differ from later generations that they trained and educated.

Leaving The Network Nest – Fly BNI Birdie, Fly!

February 21, 2010

Some people are natural networkers. They walk into their weekly BNI meeting and work the room during the open networking welcome time. They even get there early to have extra time with chapter members about referrals they have passed, to help out with Visitor Hosting by making the guests feel welcome and to help set up the room. If every chapter had people like that to volunteer extra time and services…

They go through the meeting and get to that most fun part of the week, passing referrals with each other to grow everyone’s business. Here is where we see a split between networkers and business people who come for the breakfast. The networkers pass referrals where the prospects are outside people that they know. It could be their clients, family, friends, co-workers, vendors, neighbors, etc. Occasionally they may even refer them self to another chapter member but the majority of the referrals are what are called in BNI as  Tier 2 referrals. These referrals are identified during the week and the contact information for each referral is written on a BNI Referral Slip before the meeting.

On the flip side is the Member Who Comes For Breakfast. They have their BNI membership on a low priority burner and don’t think much about BNI or their fellow chapter members during the week. They are ‘too busy’ and can’t get around to being proactive to find Tier 2 referrals. They show up at most of the weekly meetings but rarely take an important chapter job. They engage other members about the weather, sports and other non-business items but hardly ever talk to a visitor. When referral time comes along they pass referrals mainly about themselves (Tier 1 referrals) to fellow chapter members or even to a visitor even though they may know nothing about the background of the visitor. While a visitor is a potential BNI member, they are not vetted yet by the Membership Committee. Unless you have a previous history with them, you have no relationship to extract trust and confidence from as you do over time with other BNI members. Are these the best referral opportunities?

An analogy for these two types of BNI members is that of a birds nest. Each spring there is a new batch of eggs that get hatched. The parent birds feed the little ones and mentor them to learn the skills to grow. As the bond between the new birds and the mentor birds grows, the new birds get less dependent upon the mentor birds in dealing with each other. At some point they get strong enough to stop taking food from the mentors and they fly out to find their own.

But not necessarily all of them! Sometimes a bird just doesn’t get the training or have the skills or simply ignores the mentoring from the older birds. They refuse to fly out of the nest and just bother each other continually. No progress is made towards growing up as have the other successful birds. Mostly all you hear from them are complaints about why things aren’t as good as they could be. Eventually, the older birds must make a decision. Do they give up on training the new underdeveloped birds and just kick them out to see if they will fly? Do they tolerate the bad behavior that resulted from ‘failure to launch’? Do they continue the situation where a now very large new bird is consuming far too many resources and providing no return on investment? That is a tough love decision indeed. They like the young birds but there comes a point…

Membership Committees in BNI face this problem continuously. The fact is that BNI is a wonderful proven system of working with other business professionals for mutual benefit. It is not for everyone. Sometimes a business person does not understand how it works. They don’t place significant priority on the ideals and methods shown to them by other chapter members, network educators, Directors in training classes such as Member Success Program, etc. They make no effort to find the Tier 2 referrals that we all strive for, they are satisfied with Tier 1 referrals from themselves to others. They are not able or ready to fly.

Can they be helped? Of course, if they want to succeed and place proper respect for the BNI system in their business nest. If they accept the Givers Gain attitude, if they have a feel for BNI during the week, if they seriously listen to other chapter members about business instead of talking about other things, yes, they can change into a Tier 2 type of networker. They can fly from the nest and see the rest of the business world out there that BNI places before them. It really is okay to pass a Tier 1 referral when you need to but it should never form the bulk of how your chapter members think of you. Fly BNI Birdie, fly out and prosper!