I think the word “networking” gets a bad rap. For many it brings up images of greasy haired salesmen trying to get business over a conference cocktail hour. But that shouldn’t be the case. Networking isn’t a dirty word. In fact, networking can be one of the most powerful allies of a Brand Manager or Marketer. Why? Well here at my 4 favorite reasons for networking:
- Networking opens up business opportunities: As Brand Managers, it is sometimes difficult to get out there to see new opportunities. Your network can weed through opportunities for you and bring you the best ones.
- Networking opens up personal opportunities: Some studies say that over 60 percent of new jobs are found through networking. And I’ve heard something like 50 percent of jobs (most likely your dream job) are never posted to the general public.
- Networking can build your personal brand: Personal recommendations are the most powerful thing out there. If you have a strong network, then your network can be a testimony for you.
- Networking can pay long term benefits: All three of the above can be long term benefits. But there are others for sure. For instance, some of my closest friends in the business world have come as the result of business networking at first. You never know where the road will go.
Now if you believe in the power of networking, how can you go out and do it? Here are four of my favorites:
- Get on LinkedIn: If you haven’t done it already, get yourself a LinkedIn profile. And if you are an Outlook user, download the LinkedIn toolbar so you can easily find out which of your connections are already on LinkedIn. I have found that a tipping point occurs on LinkedIn once you have 50 or so connections. So get that first 50 as fast as you can by inviting your colleagues and associates. Once you hit that fifty, you can start leveraging the power of LinkedIn to start networking. Start by writing a solid profile of yourself. Then join a group around your industry. Answer a question in the Q&A area to show your expertise. Get your closest associates to give you a referral. Before you know it, LinkedIn will have become a great networking tool for you.
- Use the power of the Internet: If you aren’t already started blogging, you should think about it. At minimum, you should use a free blog like WordPress.com to set up an online presence for yourself. On that site or blog you should have a robust About Me section that says who you are, what you do and what you’re interested in professionally. Don’t be afraid to brag a little bit. If you are interested, your blog can become a great networking tool as well and one of the best ways to show your expertise. The site should also have all the ways someone can get in touch with you…whether that is Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else you want to network. Also, keep in mind that 50 percent of marketing and advertising executives said they “Google” a potential employee before interviewing. What are your Google results saying about you?
- Take advantage of traveling: If you are traveling on business (and most marketers are pretty regularly), then you should take advantage of that time on the road. When you finish the day, don’t do room service for dinner. Take advantage of the city and meet some new people. If you are meeting with your agency, ask a few of them to dinner. And ask them to bring along some interesting people for drinks. You can get the advantage of meeting some interesting people, without the awkwardness of trying to find common ground. Also, if you have done step #2 above, you can announce when you are traveling places and meet up with people you have met online. I do this all the time when traveling to NYC, Chicago or LA.
- Get out there and speak: I love speaking at conferences. Luckily working for P&G gives me plenty to talk about when I get invited to speak at shows like IEG or What Teens Want. I’ve actually found an unexpected benefit of these speaking engagements as well. They are one of the best (if not the best) networking tools out there. When you speak at a conference, you will get a bunch of people wanting to talk with you afterwards (as long as you didn’t blow the speech). Sure more than a few of these will be people just wanting to sell you something. But a lot of them will be people just like you who want to connect with like minded souls. The same goes for your fellow speakers at a conference. They will be some top minds in business…make sure you meet all of them!
And here are three final tips for networking. Think of these as tips for you and tips for anyone looking to connect with me as well:
First, good networking needs to be two-sided. Don’t network with the hope of making a sale. Only network if both parties can benefit from the relationship. Second, don’t be a stalker. Networking can get a bad name by people being too aggressive. Take your time for the relationship to build. Finally, don’t be too promiscuous. Some people think networking means getting as many business cards as possible or having the most LinkedIn connections. That isn’t the case. Networking should be about starting a business relationship with someone that can pay long-term gains for both parties.
So what are waiting for? Get out there and admit that networking isn’t a dirty word. If you want, make networking with me your first step (see contact info in the sidebar to the right).