The Five Habits of Highly-Effective Online Networkers

rainmakerThe following article by Tim Klabunde was published in the April edition of A/E Rainmaker, a PSMJ Resources publication.

Let’s be real, online networking is not real networking. I am not saying that it can’t be a useful tool; I am simply stating that real networking is about a lot more than just ‘linking’ to other people. Let’s forget the discussion on which online site is better for the moment, and focus on how we can leverage these online sites as an effective tool for expanding our networks. If we can’t do this, then online networking is no better than collecting a stack of business cards.

You would probably agree that networking is much more than contacts; it is what you do with those contacts that differentiate rain makers from everyone else. In his book Rain Making, Ford Harding identifies networking as ‘helping people.’ It is about providing others with assistance knowing that others in your network will do the same for you. If you were to check out many professionals’ contact lists you would find that they are full of hundreds of contacts, but very few networking relationships. This is because, as Harding indicates, most people fail to understand that networking is about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Online networks are no different. Success is not intrinsic in simply making contact, success is found by what you make of every contact. Here are the five concepts that successful online networkers live by.

1. Networking is more than contacts. What this means is that online networking is not a successful tool unless you can use it to achieve the overarching objective of helping other people. The good news is that online networking can be a great asset to you in doing just this. Most sites are set up so that you can leverage your online network to provide others with referrals, connect others in your network, and keep your network contact information up to date.

2. Online referrals. Probably the most underutilized aspect of online networking is the ability to refer work and clients to others in your network. The area where we have seen the most success so far is the use of online networks to pass along job openings. If you are already linked in to an online network, I would recommend trying out this feature to see how you can leverage it. Also, most sites give you the ability to block your contacts from others in your network. Carefully weigh this in light of helping other people. I have found it beneficial to allow others to see my contacts so that we can more effectively work together.

3. Link others in your network. How many times since you started using an online networking site have you used your network to connect your friends? Online networking creates an environment where passing along a relationship is easy and mutually appreciated. If you are already part of an online networking site, try connecting your friends to help them be more successful.

4. Keeping your contacts up to date. Online networking sites provide a great way to keep your contacts up to date. Since online networks are linked to individuals and not to their respective companies, you can effectively ‘never lose touch’ through job changes, promotions, and layoffs. 

5. Getting the most out of online networking. Whether or not you use online networking tools such as LinkedIn.com or Facebook.com you need to consider your networking plan. Develop your objective and then determine the tools that work best for achieving your personal goals. For me, I find that using Microsoft Outlook linked to my Palm Treo is ideal; for others, there is nothing better than a full CRM. Whatever your method, remember to establish a follow-up plan that will ensure you are helping other people on a regular basis.

Establishing your plan for networking is essential to determining how you will use the online networking sites. Next time you get or send the e-mail “I’d like to add you to my professional network…” determine if you are simply doing it as an effort to stack business cards, or as a tool to strengthen your network.

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The $15,000 Question

I am convinced that some people have a knack for memorizing people’s names, and that I am not one of them. As a result of this belief, I used to be terrible at remembering people’s names. Then, several years ago I commented as much to a good friend who told me about the $15,000 question:

“It is not that you can’t memorize people’s names, it is that you don’t think peoples names are worth memorizing. If I introduced you to someone and offered you $15,000 if you could remember their name a week from now you would not only remember their name, but also their mothers name, middle name, correct spelling, and several interesting facts about the person.”

I was quickly put in my place… he was right! I am still not the best at memorizing names, but I have been shocked over the past several years at how I have improved. I just needed to realize that memorizing a name is not just important to the people I meet, it is also important to me.

Money, Wealth, and Relationships

moneyOn his Wealth blog this week Kenneth Klabunde wrote a must read article entitled Redefining Wealth. In the article he defines the intersection of wealth and relationships: “Sustainable wealth requires resources and relationships.  Resources include our skills, knowledge, money and property.  Relationships give purpose for these resources, and provide additional resources to complement our own.

It is refreshing that an elite financial guru with clients and readers that have an average net worth of over $2 million dollars focuses on relationships, the core of our human existence. I am certain you will find his post thought provoking!

PS – be certain to check out his earlier posts if you want to see how the nation’s top 2% are responding to the market.

Creating a Marketing Culture

creatingamarketingculture_coverThe following article by Tim Klabunde was published in the April edition of Marketer.

Building a corporate culture that embraces marketing can be one of the most effective ways to achieve your company’s growth objectives. Companies that are successful in developing a marketing culture reap the benefits of strong work capture collaboration, cross-selling among departments, and active participation in the marketing process. By contrast, firms that do not have this culture often find that marketing is compartmentalized among departments and are missing uniformity in their message in the local marketplace. The most effective way to succeed at changing a corporate culture towards that of marketing is to purposefully engage a cultural change process.

The Cultural Change Process

As simple as this philosophy sounds, the reality is that most firms are not successful at changing their corporate culture because they do not follow a structured process of cultural change. The result is that most corporate cultural changes do not happen by predetermined paths, but instead occur by accident.

It is important to remember that just as your culture was not built overnight, corporate culture doesn’t change overnight. It is not an easy process, but by looking at the thousands of firms that have gone before us we can identify a systematic process that yields successful cultural change. That systematic process can be broken down into four easy-to-understand steps that will allow you to take control of your cultural change. 

Step 1 – Educate and Encourage

Education and encouragement are the foundational step of any cultural change.  Without the knowledge of how to succeed in a new culture it will be impossible for employees to move towards that new culture.  In the case of changing corporate culture toward a culture that embraces marketing the first thing people need to know is how marketing works and how they can participate in the marketing program.  This often requires training in areas such as basic business marketing, networking, and business development. During and after training it is important to encourage employees to try out their newly acquired skills.  Through this process you will begin an ongoing process of training and raising up a company that embraces the new culture. 

Step 2 – Define Expectations

The second step in changing a corporate culture is defining expectations. Employees need to have a clear understanding of company expectations for them as individuals as well as collectively. Changing corporate culture depends on changing one person at a time. Because each person is unique and has different responsibilities, this also means that what is expected of individuals should vary.  For example, a project manager may be responsible to achieve specific business development goals whereas a receptionist may be responsible to learn people’s voices on the phone and address key clients by name.  Expectations should also be tailored to the strengths of individuals so that their contributions can be maximized.

Step 3 – Acknowledge & Celebrate Success

Acknowledging and celebrating success is the single most important step in changing corporate culture.  Firms often begin the process of change by bringing in outside training and defining new expectations, but the culture change never takes root.  The reason is that culture change depends on acknowledging success at the highest level. In the case of building a marketing culture this can be accomplished by the CEO taking the time to walk into individual’s offices just to say “thank you” to an employee for bringing work in the door.  That brief moment of acknowledgement will ensure that the individual knows what they did was important and appreciated, not just by their manager, but also by upper management. 

In addition to acknowledging success you should strive to celebrate success. Ways to celebrate success include popping a cork on a bottle of champagne when a new client signs up, or with bagels the next morning for the department with a note of thanks. The key differentiator between acknowledging success and celebrating success is that a senior individual should acknowledge the success, but celebration of success should be inclusive of others that were directly or indirectly a part of the success.

Step 4 – Reward Success

The final step in changing a corporate culture is rewarding success.  Title changes, bonuses, parking spaces, raises, and office locations linked to culture change successes ensure the longevity of your cultural change.  This final stage should only be implemented after the other three steps because it can backfire without the proper foundation. Rewarding success is important because it aligns the objectives of the cultural change with long-term rewards that then become evident to others throughout the company. The goal is to build the cultural shift based on people that are working to build a better company for themselves and others.   

Individuals Are Your Culture

It is important to measure your success in changing your corporate culture one person at a time. Your culture did not instantly become what it is today, and it will not instantly become what you want it to be.  The first two steps should include everyone in the company, although recognizing that not everyone will immediately embrace the new culture. Instead, focus your attention on individuals that begin to implement and show the successes of your cultural change. By doing this you will see a wave of optimism unfold as these individuals begin to build your new corporate culture.

Why Network

Social NetworkI am often asked “Why should I network” during training sessions on Networking.  It is a simple question with an answer that can change the way you interact with others and the way you live your life.  Below is a summary of my answer, the powerful truth of why you should network…

“Networking is about you, not about a company.  If you are a project manger, the projects you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an engineer, the designs you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an accountant, the money you work with better stay here when you leave.  However, one of the few things that you will take with you (and that your company will loose) is your relationships, also known as your network.  Due to this, your network will be and is one of your most powerful tools.  Let’s look at two extremes as an example of how networking plays a role in everyone’s career:

Last Laid-off

Time and time again strong networkers are spared during layoffs, not because they are top performers, but because they have something many top performers don’t have.  Take this example:

An executive in the midst of an economic downturn was faced with a problem: he had to lay off one of two people:  The first was an incredible performer with a knack for completing projects on time and without errors.  The second was a good performer with a network of relationships that was bringing in over $1 million dollars of work into the company.  Who was laid-off?  Time and time again we see that most executives will protect the welfare of the company by keeping a good performer that can bring work in the door over an incredible performer that isn’t bringing in work. 

Think about it, who would you lay-off?

First Promoted

Your network not only protects you, it also reminds management who they want to keep around.  Because of this top networkers are also regularly the first promoted.  Take my story:

I have been in the construction industry for less than a decade.  I am honored to work with great friends (that’s right, most everyone in my network I consider a true friend) that I am blessed to be able to help.  Because I help them to be successful my friends take my calls and regularly work to help me in return.  As a result, my network of friends have helped me win hundreds of large projects for my company (Thank you very much!) and opportunities have opened that resulted in several major lateral moves during my career.

If you want to advance your career, do everything in your power to bring work, solutions, and answers into your company.  The most effective way to do this is through Networking: Continually helping others and building a close group of friends to whom you purposefully focus your help.  I know that my company would survive without me, but I have the satisfaction that I am doing everything in my power to make our company succeed.  When you try to live your life to help others and your company, you are learning how to build a successful life!”

The Washington Post vs. Bisnow

capitol-with-treesIn an effort to reduce cost, the Washington Post recently made the decision to eliminate its business section. I must admit that I didn’t think this was a big deal until I received a note from Bisnow.com, a free Washington DC digital (e-mail) publication. The note stated that Bisnow is going to begin providing Business Section coverage through a new digital publication: Daily Bisnow! Did you catch that, a three year old digital publication is beating out an industry leader (the Washington Post)!

What Happened

Bisnow is part of the future, where information is free and value is created by giving away what you know. Who wants to pay for a newspaper when the information can be accessed instantly and deciphered whenever and however you want it? This business model allows companies to thrive by giving information away rather than charging for it. In turn the captive audience becomes a magnet for companies that can benefit from advertising. (If you don’t believe me think about how much you didn’t pay to search Google this past month.)

Are you ready?

What about your business? Most probably you can’t go to the extreme of giving away everything, but what about helping others and by doing so building strong relationships. You can choose to hold your contacts, information, and resources close, or you can choose to open your resources as a path to help others succeed. In doing so, you likewise will find yourself achieving your personal goals.

Here is the note I received from Bisnow:

We are saddened by the demise of the separate Washington Post business section. It’s a great newspaper, and many of us continue to subscribe.

But we think business news is too important, especially today, to relegate to inside pages. 

We want to try to do something about it.

Starting this week, we’re launching a Daily Bisnow (Washington). Although we’re excited to have become the best read local business publication, this new e-mail will be about both national and local business.  

Of course, we’ll do it in our style:

  • Free
  • Fun
  • All-electronic
  • Lots of pictures
  • Lots of personalities
  • Mercifully short

So that your Inbox is not clogged, we’re going to pull back on the frequency of our other publications. Also, we’ll publish Daily Bisnow in the morning, and reserve the afternoon for our more specialized publications: Legal, Tech, Trade Association, Medical, Commercial Real Estate, and The Scene.

We are now 16 employees, but still small enough to care about each reader. If you have comments about our new publication, pro or con, write our publisher directly: Mark@Bisnow.com. He doesn’t have an unlisted number, at least yet.

Or come visit our office on Connecticut Ave. and play ping pong with us.