Networking the Network
Posted on March 22, 2012 by Angela Scruggs
In Kindergarten, it was so easy. You just said, “Wanna play with me?”
And the other kid said, “Sure!” And your friendship is complete.
Now, however many years later, society slaps a label on it and it becomes the goal of every business for years. Networking. The buzzword of the century. And we’ve been given just as many buzz worthy tools to accomplish the task. Internet technology, social networks, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, buzz buzz buzzzz.
These buzz words may be annoying by this point. I think my tone so far has revealed that I find them pretty annoying too. So how can we utilize this system to get the best results? How can my small business network within this buzz-word-world (say that five times fast) and come out with multiplying relationships equivalent to Frodo & Samewise in Lord of the Rings?
How do I pick the right business relationships?
In a Harvard Business Review interview with Rob Cross, Cross shares his statistical findings from his life's work over the last 15 years about social networking. He also suggests what his findings can imply about networking in the business-place. He reveals in the interview that connections made randomly in mass quantities are not sustainable. That quantity is not better than quality. He concludes that having too many random connections can lead to a point of derailment.
So, for your business, he suggests having ties with a conservative number of reliable people who are passionate and driven. Also, making solid connections with people of influence (who can get things done) is the most important kind of relationship for the future of your business but also the hardest to come by. This group of passionate, influential people is pretty much your "inner circle." It probably includes your partner or closest colleague in the office and maybe your spouse, but otherwise it is mostly friends and mentors who know you and your company.
Here's where you need to remember that your closest and best relationships will be the driving force behind any changes in your business. Meaning your inner circle is crucial. These are the people you trust and who care about you. They don't shoot down ideas, they support good ideas and they challenge other ideas until they become better.
One step outward would be making relationships that cross traditional boundaries. Meeting people in different fields and in different hierarchical levels can give you more exposure and therefore more opportunities. Even people across physical distance can be your best connections for brainstorming.
Now that you have these connections, how do you keep them?
Maintaining relationships is difficult for anyone, but when they are business contacts your company's success is depending on that maintenance. This is where a database comes in. I know it sounds strange to organize relationships with a database, but I'm not talking about an excel kind of database. You probably have tried to do this with your Gmail contacts or Outlook contacts. BatchBook is one kind of social CRM that lets you store and organize your many contacts based on similarities. Because you can search based on line of work or position in a company, these kinds of databases help you keep contacts easily accessible.
To truly keep relationships, you have to be a good business partner yourself. Being of value to your contacts will make them come to you. That may mean you are good at finding someone else business or getting someone else in contact with the right person; when you hold that value they will keep coming back. Everyone values that person who knows all the right people. Who says you can't be that person?
As your number of contacts starts to multiply, it is important to keep a line constantly open with each person or business. This is where social media comes in. Tweeting at someone or posting a Facebook blurb about a friend's new product can take seconds but can also revitalize an old relationship.
If you have other suggestions you have discovered in your business life, we would love to hear them in the comments. Good luck networking the system.