Friday, August 6, 2010

The Power of Your Network

We (the company I own/work for) is launching a new project.  We had an idea (no alcohol involved), we researched and found some actual history that led us to believe it had a reasonable chance of success if done properly, and we all got on the phone from our various corner offices and non-corner offices to go through the logistics and timeline of the project and steps to its launch.  And then we had the 'network' talk.  And that, as they say, has made all of the difference.

Malcom Gladwell's gargantuan bestseller 'The Tipping Point' is a wonderful read and in his discussion's about social interaction and influence he introduces the notion of three main types of people that make things happen: Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen.  I agree a thousand times over with most every premise in the book but most definitely in the understanding that having a personal/professional network inclusive of these people makes all of the difference in the world between success or failure. It most certainly has been illustrated for us in this current launch.

I think I am more of a salesmen type-not the genius who interprets body language and hypnotizes people with my mere presence-the kind who likes to persuade people to agree with me, or more importantly want to participate in and assist the success of my projects. I also try to serve as a connector whenever possible. If you haven't read the book I highly recommend it.

For this project my colleagues and I took a look at all the folks that were friends or at least friendly acquaintances (our network) with connections of any kind in the project niche.  We also looked at peripheral networks we might have such as Linkedin groups, our corporate twitter accounts, or professional association memberships we possessed. We each were tasked with talking to each of those in our 'network' about what we were doing and how we needed assistance. We also developed the philanthropic aspects of our project so those we approached could help from a purely charitable standpoint if nothing else. We then set out to spread the good word.  Those we knew were the more valuable connectors and also those we knew the best, we met with in person when possible.  The others we called, emailed, or a combination of both.

Within a day we knew that one particular friendly acquaintance 'John' was golden for us.  There are three reason he and any golden network member has such impact.  First 'John' is a connector to his very core...he knows everyone and practices connecting.  Secondly, we had worked with him on a project near to his heart in the past and done it well so he had confidence in working with us. Lastly he liked us and people like a personal connection kind of way, and we all like him. John is the perfect connector to make sure you have in your network:someone who connects as habit, someone who believes in you and what you're doing, and someone for whom others have affection and a desire to help

Because of just two key introductions he made on our behalf, we were able to accomplish 80% of the groundwork in record time.  But he didn't just introduce us to two good people, he made sure to introduce us to two people just like him.  Two people who loved to connect, who were familiar with our company's work on something they held dear AND who liked their affection/respect for him was transferred to us by the virtue of his personal introduction.  That is how it happens when it all goes right.

Take some time to look at your network.  Remember to include not just your obvious close associates but to be mindful of indirect connections through social media, trade organizations, high school alums, etc that can be effective.  Identify which folks within those networks are best suited for the task you have to accomplish.  A connector is what I needed because our projects require lots of marketing and attendee support.  Perhaps you don't have a salesman on board for your particular project and need one.  Matching your network resource to the need is crucial.

Don't be afraid to reach out to them once you've identified them. Make sure that you have support materials that can be used when you call, email, or visit your network. Depending on your project or need this can be a simple tag line or a complex brochure. Give your connection or salesperson all the info they need to connect or sell on your behalf. 

If you realize that you don't have much of a network or that you haven't examined the one you have then take a day or two to make a network plan. First make a list of the folks you do know, those you've worked on project with in the past who are happy, those who you've helped out, or those you admire.  All great people to list.  Next make a list of your indirect or possibly network influencers...this is your linkedin profile, your linkedin groups, your association contacts, and your prospects that didn't come to fruition but who you still met/know have some connection to your project subject matter. You will probably start to realize that you have more of a network than you realize. 

If you don't have a list that is longer than you thought it would be, then you need a plan to cultivate a network. It isn't extremely difficult but it does take some time. I'll include more information on building a network in subsequent posts.

How has networking or activating your network proven successful for you?

1 comment:

Beth Zimmerman said...

I'm not much of a networker but this was an interesting read!