The 29% Solution: Do You Block Out Time to Network?

Plan your networking

Week Two – Block out time to network – working through The 29% Solution in 2014.

That seems like a fair question? You can probably guess that it means doing a little more than blocking out the event time in your calendar!

Like most things worth doing in life, if you are going to network you should do it properly – unless that is you spell ‘networking’ more like ‘notworking’.

My journey through ‘The 29% Solution’ – the book on getting more from networking by BNI Founder Dr. Ivan Misner – has reached Chapter Two and having set specific and measurable networking goals in last week’s blog it involved saying what I was going to do to achieve them – it didn’t involve me blocking out the time needed to achieve those goals!

To be fair my role as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire involves extra responsibilities to support my chapters that requires spending time outside the meetings to ensure they thrive and I fulfil my aim of helping chapters to grow and individual members grow their business.

However what this part of the book has reminded me to do is block out time specifically for networking, so now I have time immediately after my various meetings blocked out so I can have 1-2-1s and follow up with members and visitors. I also specifically block out time on a Monday to invite visitors and then time each day to handle emails and respond to follow up calls.

In BNI, a member who doesn’t truly embrace the principle of ‘Givers Gain’ is often dubbed ‘a 90 minute member’ meaning that while they turn up for the meeting they do nothing else in the 9,990 minutes between weekly meetings.

When I think of other networking groups I have run and founded, they only thrived because I blocked out time to manage them and more crucially I only achieved business through them when I consistently added networking time to my default diary.

So this one of those uncommon common sense parts of networking and as I mentioned before if you consider networking worth doing, it is worth doing well!

So tell us how you manage your time networking? And remember, it is never too late to set your networking goals!


The 29% Solution: A business plan sure, but a networking plan?

Week One – Set Networking Goals – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

Do you have a business plan? A marketing plan? Worthy questions that kick off Week One of the book ‘The 29% Solution’ and run the risk of diverting you from establishing a plan for networking. If you don’t have the former then you really shouldn’t be here!

However, let’s assume you have a business plan and surely networking should be part of your marketing plan too? Perhaps if you can see how networking would contribute it will inspire you to have a marketing plan! Or perhaps a PR and Social Media Strategy too!

The book challenges you to set SMART goals (guest blogger and author Neil Goudge talked about SMART goals in his guest post on achieving resolutions) and clearly if you set goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

It suggests SMART goals like ‘Becoming a member of the ABC (BNI Bourne in Thatcham anyone?) Chapter by June 30 or ‘I will achieve a 30% increase in my annual referral business from networking in (named networking group) by December 31st.’

It also asks really pertinent questions that I suspect few networkers, this one included in the past, ever ask themselves.

For example:

  • How much business do you want to get from word-of-mouth referrals and by when?
  • How many networking functions will you attend each month?
  • Who do you want to meet this year? 

Remember it would be easy to add a figure and date and create a SMART goal, but nothing is going to happen unless you make it! So what do you need to do to achieve such a goal?

A point to remember and I suspect will become more obvious as I blog about The 29% Solution each week, is that if you are a member of a BNI Chapter you will find that you score higher and will more readily achieve many of the outcomes… makes you think eh?!

Now my networking goals are slightly different due to my exciting capacity as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire as I want to make the cake bigger rather than just my slice – which is a delicious way of explaining the BNI ethos of Givers Gain. My slice will get bigger naturally!

Those SMART networking goals at January 2014 (and I will undoubtedly add more during the year):

  • Improve my overall networking competence by December 31st 2014

I will do this by completing ‘The 29% Solution’s’ 52 weekly strategies and blogging about them here will cement the learning and make me accountable.

Attend the monthly BNI Director Training offered by BNI Berkshire.

Continue being mentored by Julian Lewis, one of the Executive Directors of BNI Berkshire

  • I will raise my own networking profile among the members of the various chapters in BNI Berkshire throughout 2014.

I will do this by delivering at least one education slot at all the established chapters throughout Berkshire by June 30.

By being part of the team delivering training for members of the newly elected BNI Leadership Teams in March and September 2014

By demonstrating my expertise in the ‘How Givers can Gain on LinkedIn and BNI Connect training courses which I run for BNI Berkshire.

Through sharing blogs like this one on appropriate social media channels.

  • Help at least 50 new business professionals and tradespeople discover the power of BNI and successfully apply to join a chapter in BNI Berkshire by 31 December 2014.

I will do this through inviting visitors to BNI Bourne in Thatcham, one of the chapters I am responsible for. 

I will do this by being an effective Director Consultant when meeting with visitors who are interested in applying to join BNI. 

I will do this by inviting my social media audience to join me when I am visiting chapters throughout BNI Berkshire to deliver the education slot.

I will do this through the successful launch in BNI Streatley, which will be held on Tuesdays at The Swan Hotel in Streatley.

SMART goals I think!

Keep up to date with my progress through 52 weekly strategies of The 29% Solution here!

What are your networking goals? Why not share them here and become accountable? And do get in touch if you would like more business and want to know how networking with BNI can deliver it.

Next week: Block Out Time to Network

What Netflix can teach us about networking

What Netflix can teach you about networkingDid you binge over Christmas? No, we don’t mean third helpings of turkey or a bloat of mince pies (it should be the collective noun!). Did you gorge yourself on Netflix? Have you seen House of Cards? Or Lilyhammer? How about Orange is the New Black?

With over 1.4 million users in the UK subscribing to Netflix for just £5.99 per month for unfettered access to so many TV series and movies there is a good chance you are avoiding the water cooler lest you expose yourself as a Sky subscriber or worse!

However, it is not the ability to combine watching an entire series of Breaking Bad rather than go to bed that is making Netflix so successful, it is actually the uncanny ability to suggest programmes you might like based on those you’ve just watched or even based on a search for a show they don’t yet have! They are precise and nearly always correct.

Contrast this with the blunderbuss of recommendations that Amazon offers. This is especially bad following Christmas when perhaps more than ever your previous purchases include gifts. So it is suggesting you might like items that relate to something you bought for someone else!
So what has this got to do with being successful at networking?

It is all about being specific!

Say you were at a networking event and you wanted to be introduced to someone in the public relations and social media industry. If you say that you might just get lucky and get introduced as a result.

However, if you asked to be referred to Nigel Morgan, a director with public relations and social media agency Morgan PR in Newbury, West Berkshire something magical will happen akin to Netflix thinking of other programmes you might like.

Absolutely, if people in the room know me, they will probably introduce you and even if they don’t know me personally they might ask their network or look on LinkedIn to see if they know someone who knows me.

If they don’t know me they might know someone else in a PR and/or social media company, they might know a marketing company in Newbury or any variation of the details you gave and even by being specific you open up the possibility of being referred to other businesses you might like to work with! Just like Netflix uncannily figures you might like other programmes and films.

Being specific is something that the networking organisation BNI teaches its members to be during their 60 second presentations at the weekly meetings. Those who are will always be more successful than those who ask for somebody or anybody. It is why other networking organisations I know (and enjoy) do not deliver the same results.

So has Netflix taught you something about networking? Or do you have another strategy that works? Tell us more in the comments and if you would like to experience a chapter in BNI Berkshire, or indeed just about anywhere in the world, do contact us here at Morgan PR.

Be SMART and you can achieve your New Year’s Resolutions!

Neil Goudge, author of Break Free Go Contracting

Blogger and author Neil Goudge

In this guest post Morgan PR client, blogger and author of Break Free Go Contracting, Neil Goudge reveals the best way to fulfil your resolutions!

I love New Year. It’s a chance to think about what you’ve achieved in the previous year and what you can do in the year ahead. It’s the start of something new and potentially something different. I take great care with my resolutions but have to admit that sometimes, like everyone, I don’t achieve them!

But there’s nothing to stop you being really clear and definitive about your resolutions in order to give you the best chance of achieving them. Many of you will have come across the acronym SMART when objective setting but New Year is a great time to put it into practise for yourself.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based (although you’ll find various versions around!).

Best illustrated by an example, instead of saying “I will lose weight”, a SMART objective would be “I will lose 3kg by the end of March”. It’s specific, to do with your weight, it’s measurable, because you can stand on a set of scales and know where you start from and know exactly what your target is, whether it’s achievable is dependent on you – I’ll come on to this, it’s relevant because you’ve prioritised this over a whole load of other things you could be doing and it’s time based, because you know you need to do this by the end of March.

Back to the achievable bit – this is where the plan to achieve your objective becomes important. It’s all very well defining clearly your resolutions but you have to work out a plan that makes it achievable and this is where a lot of people fall short. So if you’ve never lost 3kgs in 3 months before, you will need a good, solid set of activities to ensure you get there.

The plan should also be SMART and might look like:

  • Exercise 3 times a week by running 30 minutes in the evening
  • Swim 2 times a week doing 50 lengths of a 25m pool
  • Drink less by cutting out all alcohol during the week
  • Eat better by eating less fatty food each week

The measurable bit should be that you weigh yourself each week and have a chart that shows your progress to your goal. If you don’t lose weight in the first 2 weeks, you know you have to do more in the following weeks. Each week you’ll get to know how on track you are towards achieving your goal.

You can apply this kind of approach to any of your resolutions.

Changing jobs or career is something that a lot of people decide they are going to do at New Year. People change jobs an average of 7 times more in their lifetime than a couple of decades ago. The same approach outlined above applies to this. You need to very clearly define what you are going to do and when you’re going to do it by but it has to be supported by a detailed plan that will make it achievable.

Forbes have a great article on this called “11 New Year’s Resolutions that will jump start your career”

My good friend Simon Wilkinson has some practical advice at worth checking out.

To really think about what you need to do before you change jobs, take a look at and check out their article on the Top 10 things to do before you change jobs

And, it’s a few years old but still relevant, 10 great reasons to change jobs. 

If you want to read more into the subject of objective setting, there are some great websites that really help in this area too. I like the simple method outlined by (click on Toolkit, Time Management and Personal Goal Setting). There’s lots of useful stuff on this website about goal setting.

Happy New Year to everyone – let’s get those objectives achieved this year. One of mine was to have some guest blogs posted to thanks to Morgan PR!

Trying out The 29% Solution to improve the return on networking

The 29% SolutionHave you ever played Six Degrees of Separation? The dinner party game where you see how you can reach anyone in the world in just six degrees? It is certainly fun when you’ve been a journalist and police press officer as you quickly tot up celebrities and Royals which make for a winning hand!

However, I have just found out the fallacy of six degrees though. It is nonsense and based on the most successful of Stanley Milgram’s tests in the 1960s and 70s where letters were sent out by a group to try and reach a person they didn’t know. Just 29% achieved it in the now mythical six degrees and in other tests it fell to just five per cent!

Hence the title of a book I’m reading The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies (affiliate link) by BNI founder Ivan Misner and referral expert Michelle Donovan. It takes the urban myth of six degrees and aims to get your networking to that level, to be part of that minority for whom six degrees does work, with 52 weekly success strategies.

To benchmark where you are the book asks you to fill out Ivan Misner’s Networking Self-Analysis form, which I duly did. Totting up my score it was 208 out of a possible 260, which landed me just inside the 80th percentile and apparently I’m ‘Very Good’! Or to be more precise, according to the authors:

“You’re doing many things right. Your effort can be very effective, and your relationships strong.”

What follows are 52 weekly strategies broken into eight sections and with a score of 208 I will no doubt find some weeks will be building on activities I already carry out as an experienced networker and Director Consultant for BNI Berkshire.

I’m hoping that this book will enhance my ability to help members of BNI Berkshire while improving my own performance as a networker, not least embodying the BNI principle of ‘Givers Gain’.

I plan to blog about each strategy and explain how I have found it and what results it is bringing and would be interested how these blogs help you too so do jump in with any thoughts or questions. The first week explores ‘Creating your Networking Goals’, which should be good! 

Could poor customer service be why Tesco is losing its sparkle?

Imagine… you are at the checkout in Tesco and have just bought eight bottles of Taittinger Champagne as gifts for clients… the scene is set for an excursion into poor customer service which we can all learn some lessons from.

So back to the till… As you go to put them in your various bags for life a Tesco employee skips up and takes six bottles, replacing them with some pink fizzy nonsense and by way of explanation says that someone had already bought the bottles online.

Actually the sorry episode I’ve just witnessed over the past painful few days was different, but the principle remains the same. My better half bought the eight bottles online, they were available and she paid and delivery would be the next day.

Two bottles of Champagne arrived… with six inferior bottles of pink Champagne as replacements and when challenged, Tesco’s explanation was that someone had bought the other bottles in store. So to be clear, bottles which had been offered for sale, accepted, paid for and promised were then actually sold to someone else?

Really? Is that what passes for stock management at Tesco? You are able to sell something and promise it to a customer and then take it away and sell it to another customer and replace it with an inferior product.

Naturally in the days that followed there was sorry excuse after sorry excuse and the next promised delivery didn’t turn up and various coupons and platitudes were offered, before it finally turned up in a remarkably allotted ten minute window on Sunday morning.

There is scarcely a day when Tesco is not in the news for some failure or another and all the time you just know it is haemorrhaging customers faster than you can mutter ‘Champagne? Bit of a first world problem surely?’

Rather than crying over the spilt milk in aisle three Tesco needs to get a grip for this kind of customer experience has as much to do with why the likes of Aldi and Lidl are thriving as does price.

The lesson is blisteringly simple. Do not continue to offer for sale something you have already sold!

There is a PR lesson too… when you mess up like this today there is every chance it will be lived out on Facebook and perhaps someone will blog the sorry story and share that widely. Gone are the days when a snafu like this could be hushed away with platitudes.

Surely good customer service should be borne of a desire to help and provide a great experience, therefore engendering loyalty. Failing that, surely you should recognise that sloppy customer service is the bread and butter of social media rants and how many customers does that alienate?

I suspect the beleaguered Chief Executive Philip Clarke will be getting a letter about this very soon and no doubt the response will be informative…
Have you had an interesting customer experience with Tesco? Or any of the other supermarkets? Do share, good and bad examples are welcome as are tales of what you do to provide great customer service. 


Morgan PR clients Perfectly Posh Hair Design and VICI Language Academy celebrate West Berkshire Business Awards triumph

Krysia Eddery with the Best Use of Social Media award won by Perfectly PoshTwo of Morgan PR’s clients are celebrating after success in the recent West Berkshire Business Awards. Hungerford’s Perfectly Posh Hair Design scooped ‘Best use of Social Media’ while the VICI Language Academy was a finalist in the ‘Small Business of the Year’ category.

We offer our heartfelt congratulations and thought it was worth looking at what helped Perfectly Posh to win that award and VICI to reach the final three.

A personal approach on Facebook and Twitter has long helped Perfectly Posh Hair Design, an Aveda Salon in Hungerford, Berkshire, woo new clients, fill cancelled appointments and raise awareness

“We were delighted to win,” comments Salon Director and founder Krysia Eddery. “We were up against businesses who specialise in social media but the judges clearly liked our personal approach. Contrary to prevailing advice we have never scheduled our updates, preferring to update between clients and we always engage with those who comment and chat to us. We see social media as an online extension of the atmosphere within the salon. 

“We promote offers and opportunities for late bookings through our social media channels and links for people to book online and perhaps most powerfully we share when we have a cancellation and will nearly always have followers get in touch asking to fill the slot, which is great for business and ensures stylists are rarely are left with empty chairs.

“We encourage people to use social media in the salon too with suggestions on all our mirrors to Like us on Facebook, leave reviews and Follow us on Twitter and provide free wifi to make this easy for our clients.

On Twitter @PPoshHair has over 1,100 followers and most, alongside industry insiders, are local to the salon and the majority are clients, however we really rock on Facebook where Perfectly Posh has 3,190 Likes and climbing with rarely less than 120 people talking about us and a host of five star reviews giving social proof on social media.

“There is also the Perfectly Posh blog where we share our photo shoots and talk about the latest styles and the benefits of using Aveda products; we share new blogs on Facebook and Twitter, but also have readers who visit the website just to catch up on the latest blog.”

It is the second award for Perfectly Posh this year as colourist Jody Gale won his category at The English Hair and Beauty Awards and naturally social media helped garner support for his entry and shared news of his triumph, instantly attracted new client and congratulations.

At the VICI Language Academy, which is in Arcade House in the heart of Newbury Town Centre, Nathalie Danon-Kerr explained how it felt to be among the finalists at the West Berkshire Business Award, which is still clearly a remarkable achievement.

“Here at the VICI Language Academy we were delighted to discover we were one of the finalists for the West Berkshire Business Awards 2013. We were among many businesses that entered and it was recognition of the hard work and achievement of everyone at the Academy that we reached the final three in the Small Business of the Year.

The Newbury MP Richard Benyon is supporting the awards and said: “The business community has many heroes and heroines who do not get enough recognition. This is a chance to recognise their achievements and to meet a wide cross section of the West Berkshire community.”

“We are not sure we are heroic, but we are very proud of all that we have achieved and being a finalist is a great honour with so many outstanding small businesses in West Berkshire and this comes as VICI is celebrating its fifth birthday.

“Five years that saw us launch as the country entered recession and grow year on year and ultimately flourish to the point where we are exploring launching VICI academies in other towns in the UK and also in France – where we suspect English will be the most popular language taught!”

Entering, and of course winning, awards is a great way to win some awesome PR and leveraged through social media the participation and potential triumph and then real success are sure fire ways to raise your profile and win new clients. Talk to Morgan PR today if you want to win with your public relations.

‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’ – Why? Who are you? Tell me how you know me!

Making the right impression when you want to build rapport with someone is vital, not least in business. Ever heard the saying you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression?

Yet on the premier online network LinkedIn the majority of introductions are abrupt and use the standard ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’. This undermines you! Unless you care more about numbers than relationships you should be connecting with people you know, or want to know – and why not say how and why?

It is often claimed a whopping 93% of communication is non-verbal and while frankly that is questionable, there is no doubt in the real world we make decisions based on much more than mere words. Yet when it comes to connecting with people online, all you have is the written word so you need to make it count.

When you bump into someone you know it is rare to limit your greeting to some bland statement, yet so many do it on LinkedIn! So make it personal and never use the standard ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’.

Recently delivering LinkedIn training to members of BNI Berkshire in my capacity as a Director Consultant with BNI I emphasised this point and there was universal agreement that people didn’t like those anonymous invitations.

So when you click Connect, always identify how you know them and add some personal words that illustrate why you want to connect. For instance if you are inviting me to connect tell me if we have met at BNI, other networking, have you seen me speak about social media? Maybe you have attended my training sessions? Read one of my books or perhaps you enjoy the blogs and crucially always say if you need help!

When you personalise your invitation you will nearly always prompt engagement and when you reply to that, guess what, that’s a conversation!

This blog has been written to help our readers understand how to get more from the social network that means business and if you’ve sent me a standard invite then you’ve probably had a link to this blog sent in reply!

To be fair, LinkedIn deserve some criticism on this. When you invite someone to connect they stress you should only connect with people you know but still offer this bland text as the default. It would be easy to make that box blank and it could only be sent once text had been entered.

Still not convinced? Pause and think about how you feel when you get that bland invite? Do you really want to make people feel like that?

Let us know what you think about inviting on LinkedIn in the comments below and do connect with me, Nigel Morgan on LinkedIn if you need help leverage the platform – and be sure to personalise that invitation to connect!

Owners and Managing Directors need not apply on LinkedIn – discover best practice for your headline

What does your headline on LinkedIn say?What does your headline say on LinkedIn? If it simple declares you to be the ‘Owner’ or ‘Managing Director’ then you are missing a major trick on LinkedIn; you should be using this to promote the difference you can make to clients!

Your headline is the text that appears immediately beneath your name and is a key part to getting you found on LinkedIn and driving people to engage. Equally it is your chance to appear dull and uninteresting – so let’s get it right and use best practice for your headline on LinkedIn.

You reach this simply by clicking ‘Profile/edit profile’ on the LinkedIn menu and you have 120 characters to play with and you should do it today if yours describes you as ‘Owner’ or ‘Managing Director’ of your business. That makes you as anonymous as our silhouette pictured here and you will blend in with the vast majority of such profiles in LinkedIn.

Not that such a title is false, indeed you are the owner and/or managing director and I congratulate you! I too can claim both titles when it comes to Morgan PR! However, currently my LinkedIn headline reads: Berkshire-based PR & social media consultant. I help companies make sense of and money from Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn.

No doubt this piece of uncommon common sense instantly illustrates the potential that your headline has. Say something more powerful that explains what you do, better still the difference you make to your particular sector. Remember benefits are better than features! Throwing in a geographic reference will help too if you cover a specific area like PR and Social Media in Berkshire!

This will help with searches for your skills on LinkedIn and can also help someone be sure they have found you. If your name is not unique and someone is trying to track you done, explaining more about what you do could help them find you.

Remember, each and every time you tweak your profile those within your network will get an update about it. 

If you’ve pimped your title and want to share why not post it below – and log in with LinkedIn and other readers will be able to visit your profile. I will offer free advice on every headline posted below!

Why you want business referrals from networking, not leads.

BNI referral slips

BNI Referral Slips

What do you get from networking? If you get leads it might be ‘notworking’ as leads need chasing. If you get referrals then you are probably a member of BNI; referrals represent a genuine opportunity to do business.

Here at Morgan PR we often go netwalking in Berkshire and Oxfordshire – which is like networking, but involves countryside and having a one-to-one walking the dogs and it does involve leads – for the dogs. It is the only time I am interested in a lead, as it safely gets the dog across the road. I don’t think a lead has any place in business except as a verb, mostly it is wasted noun and wasted time! defines as follows:

Lead (noun)

A suggestion or piece of information that helps to direct or guide; tip; clue: I got a lead on a new job. The phone list provided some great sales leads.

Here is the same website’s definition of ‘referral’:

Referral (noun)

A person recommended to someone or for something.

They are worlds apart are they not?

Imagine if I was down the pub (it has been known!) and overheard this on a neighbouring table: “Can anyone recommend someone for making videos for my website? Ideally they would need a studio in Thatcham?”

Now, having overheard I could simply take their details and tell Peter Cooke of Dudleigh Films about it… that would be a lead and he follows it up as a stranger to the person making the appeal and may or may not get the work.

Or… how about as I understand the benefits of referrals I politely joined the conversation and told them all about Peter? The work he has done for me and for clients and about the £200 deal he does for ‘talking head’ videos for your website… Already he has a much better chance of getting the work. How about if I asked if it was okay for me to get Peter to call them?

As a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire I am responsible for the Bourne Chapter of BNI in Thatcham… where Peter Cooke is a member. So in the scenario where I had recognised an ideal referral for him I can now deliver that referral either online or at the meeting on one of the slips pictured above and the person would be expecting the call and already knows how great Dudleigh films is at producing video for web – from a studio in Thatcham.

Much more professional than a lead isn’t it?

At BNI members are given training that teaches them how to ask for ideal referrals – and how to find them. Having been specific (we’ve blogged about being specific in your 60 seconds) fellow chapter members can listen out for opportunities and even generate them, ensuring that you will not be left chasing leads to grow your business.

Do you have any strategies for getting good referrals? Share them in the comments. If you would like to learn how to truly network effectively do get in touch.