Networking Power, Beyond Switches And
Think a more powerful network will help you grow your company? Want
your employees to have frequent and meaningful communication with your
clients and prospects through a bigger network? Getting a more powerful
network is often a recommendation in the technology industry to solve
business challenges. I agree with this recommendation: You absolutely need
a more powerful network -- a more powerful network of human beings.
Networking is an under-utilized marketing skill. It wins a great deal of
business, but actually requires little capital when compared with other
customer acquisition techniques via traditional media. You have frequent
opportunities to network throughout the year, even daily, but you must
maximize these moments.
What are the benefits of networking?
The most obvious reasons for networking are directly acquiring customers,
marketing your company to stay "top of mind," and community or
industry involvement. Other benefits, generally overlooked, are:
Test marketing: Meeting with groups and individuals within your
community gives you a chance to test out marketing headlines, sales
pitches, and even collect research data to generate improvements and new
product ideas. Ask your customers what they don't like about the client
user interface on their help desk software -- that's networking.
Gaining access to other people's networks: Get the trust and
confidence of someone who has a large, loyal, client database. If they
believe that you have a product or service that would benefit their
clients, they may allow you access via direct mail, e-mail, or other
marketing means. Establishing a co-marketing relationship like this can be
very profitable. You are getting a mailing list without paying for it;
but, even better, you can get your associates to write a referral letter.
It is one of the strongest methods of marketing when you include a
testimonial or reference as proof of your product concept. Think of a
voice card manufacturer that obtains favorable pricing for you on
telephony headsets for use with your computer.
Cost savings: It is quite possible to get a great deal from
someone who is a "friend" in your network of suppliers and
colleagues. We've all referred someone, or been referred, and said,
"Just tell Sally I sent you," to get a better deal because of
our relationship. Every dollar you save goes to your bottom line. Why
shouldn't you use networking to seek out the best deals for whatever you
need to run or market your business?
Adding value to your relationships with existing clients: If you
build a network properly, you can create a list of experts, technicians,
generalists, and specialists for every business or personal need or
problem. You then make this information available to your customers. This
does two things for your image. First, this allows you to solidify your
position as a resource for your clients, even outside the scope of your
product solution. Second, you act as a filter for your customers. You save
them the time and effort required to gain valuable information, like time
taken to read through many books. Read them yourself and then inform
clients what the best three are, so they don't invest time reading
mediocre, or even questionable, information from a multitude of offerings.
Where can you network?
Networking happens in two places. The most prevalent method is at specific
events. Specific events might include industry associations, chambers of
commerce meetings, user conferences, and trade shows. At these organized
events you mingle by design, yet I am always amazed at how this time is
wasted. Individuals standing by themselves, sales teams talking with their
own co-workers, and small closed circles of people are all indications of
less effective networking time and lost business. Concentrate on meeting
new contacts while solidifying your relationships with known clients,
suppliers, and associates. Have a team strategy to "work the
event" most effectively and save chatter with co-workers for back at
The less-recognized and often poorly-practiced networking occurs in
your daily routine. In your everyday schedule, you communicate with people
in your office, on the telephone, and in meetings. How do you connect with
them, rather than just communicate? How frequently do you ask them how you
can help them outside of your own service or product offering? Do you
refer them to your outsourced software developers or public relations
firms specializing in telecommunications? Make an effort to find out new
information about their life or business each time you talk. List whom
they know and then ascertain if it's possible to access their circle of
When should you network?
You should network constantly, of course. Here is one of my networking
stories. I was standing at my local car dealer's service counter, waiting
for my vehicle, when a gentleman I recognized joined the line. Maybe a
year before, I had seen him at a meeting for telecommunications
consultants. I made the effort to speak with him and confessed that I had
forgotten his name and what he did. Turns out he had been the president of
Lucent Technologies in Canada and was now the chief operating officer of a
new broadband company. He is a great contact for my consulting firm.
Certainly, our meeting at the car dealer was a coincidence. However, if
there had been no formal networking event in the past, and if I had not
made a personal effort to network at the car dealership, no relationship
would have been created and the value would have not been recognized.
In closing, if you network properly, you develop a continual source of
new business, and hopefully experience more pleasure doing your job. With
the proper networking strategy, you create conversational energy around
your enterprise's technology. The more people talk about you and your
company, the more others will hear about you. This leads to greater
confidence in you and your product, and a more favorable perception of
your company as the source for solutions to their problems.
Martin Wales is the eFounder and Chief Catcher at Customer
He welcomes your e-mail at email@example.com.
He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused
on maximum results with minimal risk using your existing resources.