I keep coming back to this crazy question. Everytime I think I have the answer I am reminded of another area of customers I had no idea existed. In addition, I am learning that some of these customers are really connected to other companies I work with, but I had no idea how strong their connections were. Also, with the constant movement in the workplace, one customer could leave you based on the hiring of a new person, who brings his/her new connections.
I think networking is just the basics. There are multiple layers of networking and it is becoming apparent how little knowledge most of us have of the greater need to stay connected and learn more about other networking channels that are developing and forming right before our eyes.
The right people for me are those that offer the following value:
- Strong presence in the local community
- Executives who are willing to share their thoughts and approaches
- Successful business people
- Startups with great ideas, who are well connected
- Online Professionals who perform similar work that I do.
- Have strong industry presence
- IT people who have the right business focus
The concept of “multi-level” networking is very common on Linkedin. Just perform a search of a company on Linkedin and look at all of the people who at one-time worked for that company. Now scan through the list and notice that a few of these former employees now work at another company. If you know of a company that has merged recently, this picture really comes to life.
In addition, start conducting more searches online for companies and see how their work is related to other companies outside of their own network. Typically, these alliances are very storng and have stood the test of time.
In addition, over the last few years, I have seen a big inlux of personal connections on Twitter and Linkedin. These connections are helping shape a new area of connections which I classify as advocates. These people may not directly do business with me directly, but by their association, I am earning respect in the indusrty for myself and my company.
In addition, there is another, more powerful undercurrent of consumers and clients which is helping to shape a new resurgence of “word-of-mouth” networking. A number of people have recognized strong brands in their industries and have helped spread the company message better than traditional paid advertising messages. I am not saying that paid advertising is dead, I am only saying that people usually mention referrals by people many more times than referrals by paid advertising.
Finally, don’t forget about those people who are coming to you and your website, but you really have no knowledge of who they are or what they want. There are tools for this. Hubspot works great.
How should you approach networking at your company?
DISCLAIMER: Obviousloy this is a very general statement and without knowing much about your company, I really have no business answering this question for you. I can only tell you that I have gone back to the drawing board and I am really looking at networking a lot differently than I used to. I need to use the time allocated for networking in a more productive manner than I have in the past. Frankly, my time is too valuable. Below are some ideas to help get you started, but ultimately the answer really comes down to you making the investment in your own research and approach that works for you.
The most important step here is to get a networking plan together and decide who you want to connect with and identify the reasons for connecting.
- Identify your audience. The more specific, the better.
- Don’t limit yourself to a few platforms.
- Start seeking out informaiton on the web and start a list of names and companies.
- Look at your competition and see who they are connected to.
- Look at company profiles on Linkedin or the Internet
- Find people who have worked at your competitor sites and see where they work now.
- Look at the shows and organizations they belong to.
The key is to really focus on “connections”. Networking is all about finding the right connections and making introductions. Do your homework first by spending some time researching your “target market”. From here, develop a strategy on how you connect better in the industry with key people from key companies.
Networking is more than just handing out your business card at a community event. It is about really finding key people to connect to and ultimately developing a strategy to build stronger relationships in your industry and your profession.
Picture Source: MorgueFile