The Intrinsic Value of Your Network

lesterMel Lester of The Business Edge recently wrote a great post on the intrinsic value of your network on his E-Quip Blog. Here is a small sampling of what he had to say:

 “So now when I’m helping my clients improve their business development process or providing sales training or speaking at a conference on the subject, I always stress the importance of networking. But not just as a sales tactic. I encourage people to get serious about networking for the intrinsic value of those relationships alone. Bottom line: Make friends, take care of them, and you’ll reap the rewards, both personally and professionally, for years.

This is not just advice for old guys or rainmakers or managers. It’s sound advice for everyone. I urge young professionals to develop the habit of building and nurturing their network now so hopefully they won’t struggle with it as much later as I do. It takes time and discipline. You must make it an immutable priority.”

“…networking should be the centerpiece of your business development strategy, whether the economy is weak or strong.”

I couldn’t agree more, thanks for the great post Mel!

Something we all have in common

blue abstractWe are all born with an innate human need to be in relationships. I look at my children and can easily see how this need manifested itself early in life, primarily concentrated on the need for relationships within our family structure. As they have grown, I have seen how this need for relationships has influenced their decisions both for good and for bad. What has been constant throughout their lives and mine is the need for relationships.

Your innate human self wants to network

Almost 100% of people that I speak with agree that networking is about relationships.  So how is it then that if we are all born with a need for relationships, most people feel networking is difficult or even painful? It is because we have incorrectly defined networking as part of the sales process. Yes, it can produce sales, and it can even find you a new job, but that doesn’t mean that it is part of the sales process.

Not everyone is made to be in sales, just like not everyone was made to be an engineer, but everyone was made for relationships. So why not leverage who you are to your advantage? Remember, networking is nothing less than helping other people with the end goal of building mutually beneficial relationships. Networking is something that you can do with others from your existing company, with others outside of your company, or preferably both. It isn’t about attending the right networking event, it is about relationships, something that all of us were designed to do in the first place. When you stop selling and start truly networking you will find the joy of strong relationships built out of selflessness.

CCB Buzz on Social Media

ccblogo1John Sedivy of Cape Cod Branding has written a great series of posts on the topic of Social Media on his CCB Buzz blog.

In Social Media Part I John discusses two views of the role of social media in networking.

In Social Media Part II John discuss social media brands and the evolution of social media.

In Social Media Part III John looks at the importance of exclusivity and consistency in your social media brand.

John is a Johns Hopkins University Fellow from the Carey Business School. He has a great amount of insight into the topic of branding and, as such, I am adding the CCB Buzz to my blogroll. John, I look forward to reading your continued insights!

More Than “Just Marketing”

sara_gammillIn the December edition of SMPS Marketer Sara Gammill of EDI Architecture writes a great article about how to position your marketing department as a strategic partner inside your company. You would think that marketing would always be a strategic partner yet many companies, especially those in the service industry, struggle to understand the importance of marketing in a successful business. Here are a couple of my favorite recomendations from the article:

Educate others about what marketing is.
Most technical staff don’t realize what marketing is or how they benefit the company beyond proposal writing. Make it your mission to educate others about how everyone is involved in marketing and how your department benefits the bottom line.

Don’t be afraid to innovate.
You are never too junior or too senior to generate new proposal processes, to spearhead programs that will save your company money or raise morale, or to draw attention to your firm by shining in a professional organization. Don’t settle for, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Sara also identifies “act like a leader” as another of her ten keys. I couldn’t agree more, when you act like a leader most often it is followed by being viewed as a leader. Thanks for the great article Sara!

Online Networking is not Real Networking

networkI am a big fan of LinkedIn, yet I recognize that most people do not understand how to use online networking sites to build and maintain their networks. In part, this is due to a misunderstanding because online networking sites in-and-of themselves are not really networking at all, they are just one of many tools you can use to network. Real networking comes down to relationships, not “links.”

Online Case Study

Eight weeks ago I started the LinkedIn group the “Washington DC Design and Construction Network.” Within the first two weeks word-of-mouth marketing had grown the group to over 50 members and today we should cross the 200 member mark. The group has two things that many groups never get: 1) active discussions and 2) opportunity to meet others in the network in person. That’s right, in early 2009 we are going to be having our first Happy Hour to give people an opportunity to meet in person. The goal is to bridge the gap between online networks and in-person networking.

Real networking

Real networking requires multiple points of connection. In the same way that simply “linking” to others is not real networking it is also true that going to networking functions is not real networking. Networking is building relationships. This relationship development should be done at the intersection of multiple communication points, including online networking sites, networking functions, follow-up e-mails, letters, association events, phone calls, lunches, coffee, and meetings. This lack of follow-up and connection is the main reason that many people that attend networking events feel that they haven’t had any success.

Your Network

Each person should evaluate all of their available communication points to identify the ones that they can best use to build their network. I personally have found that LinkedIn can be a great and professional way to maintain those connections. There is no requirement that in order to succeed at networking you must use online networking sites, but there is a requirement that you use multiple communication channels that will help you to foster and build relationships. What are the best channels for communication for you? Look for opportunities for developing mutually beneficial relationships and remember that online networking is only one of many networking tools that you should be using every day.

If you line in the DC area and you are interested in joining the Washington DC Design and Construction Network please use this link and click “join group” to join.