Networking has delivered more return on investment than any other tool in my business. Both financially and in non-monetary terms, my network has delivered so much value that I can not imagine what my situation would be like without it. If there is one thing that I could suggest that would be guaranteed to boost any business, networking would be it.
The problem is, everyone who believes in networking recommends it the same way.
“It works, try it!”. But how does it deliver value exactly? Lewis and I are about to run the training class for Shy Networking tomorrow. One of the most surprising questions I have seen over and over during our launch has been people asking how they might benefit.
You see, networking takes time. It is not an instant gratification thing very often. OK, so we have all experienced that chance meeting where everything clicks and we come away with a brilliant, but random contact. That’s not the norm. We are talking about human relationships, and they are not always fast burning things.
People are asking if they should devote time to networking over, say, SEO, blogging or social media. I have to tell you, being so close to things it took me a while to articulate. It’s like explaining why we need to breathe, drink and eat – my network is like food, but the other tactics are like water and oxygen to my business. It’s not either-or, it’s and. So if you are crunched for time, why should you add networking to your mix?
Of course you wouldn’t be reading this article if I hadn’t managed to give you concrete reasons why you should invest your time in networking, so here they are.
There are many benefits to networking but you have to remember that we are dealing with people. You have to keep that in mind. Going out with a “what can I get?” attitude is going to sink your efforts before you begin. But, of course you need to know what return you are going to get before you invest, so here is what you can expect:
1. Friendship Benefits
I wanted to start with a benefit that does not necessarily convert to Dollars, Pounds or Euros. Do not overlook the simple benefit of having friends in the business with no strings attached. We need to know someone has our back, that we have people who are there for us. It can be lonely when you work alone, with only a monitor light to keep you company. Having someone who understands is extremely valuable on a psychological and emotional level. Your friends can chat to keep you motivated and cheery, are a sounding board for ideas, or will listen to you moan when you need it. When Sonia, Jon and I get together on Skype an hour can go by in a flash, I am not always sure if we actually do solve the world’s problems, but those conversations are something I look forward to each week.
When you are in a strange town it is nice to have company even just for meals. Deb NG, Becky McCray and Andy Hayes keep me safe on the mean streets of the USA, help me dodge my diet, and stop my ego getting out of control. Now I am feeling guilty for not listing all the other people who have kept me company, fed me, or joined me in friendship and conversation over the years. Hopefully you will forgive me for not linking you up this once, I will buy you a drink next time we meet while you tell me what a horrible friend I am. Deal? My point is people need people.
Now to contrast with the touch-feely first benefit, here is where the big bang of ROI kicks in. The most significant monetary benefit my network has brought me, and we are talking six figures from just one contact, is the opportunities they expose me to or introduce me to. If you are not getting enough opportunities, then you need to build your network. Opportunities like joint ventures, client leads, partnerships, speaking and writing gigs, businesses or assets bought and sold … you name it. All the best opportunities are shared person to person in back channels. Everything from prime domain sales through to employment opportunities. If two people are equally qualified then it goes to who you know, like and trust. A lot of the time even when the person you like is less qualified. Getting passed over for plum gigs? This is why. This one networking benefit alone has to be worth an astronomical amount.
There are two problems that stop people thinking of this benefit, though:
A. People do not give credit to their network when opportunities arise. They either think “Of course I got this opportunity, I am awesome” or
they think they were just lucky.
B. Bad networking leads to a lack of opportunity, and can actually damage your ability to attract the best opportunities. It is better for nobody
to know who you are, rather than be known as a jerk. Sorry, it is a simple truth.
We all like to give friends advice, and sometimes they even ask for it! There are some things The Google can’t tell you. If I had gotten all the free advice I have received over the years from paid consultants then … well, I would have a massive deficit in my bank account or wouldn’t be writing this to you now. We rely on our networks to advise us and keep us on track, and we give back to our networks in return. Give a lot and you have credit in the bank when you need to make a withdrawal. The better your network the more knowledge you can tap into. Just in the world of SEO, people like Aaron Wall, Dave Naylor, Doug Scott, Jason Duke, Michael Gray, Rae Hoffman, Joost DeValk, a certain Google employee, and numerous others have given me golden tips over the years. They have kept me from making dumb moves, and have put me right when I have been confused (ok, that happens more times than I like to admit). When people confuse me with being a search engine expert I tell them I am not but I know plenty who are the real deal. It would be impossible to get this much expertise on the payroll, the only way to have contact with this much awesome is to try to be worthy of their friendship. There are informal advice channels like those, and there are formal arrangements such as consulting swaps or masterminds. I am doing a consulting swap with a self-development expert, he is fixing my brain and I am helping him with online marketing. Masterminds are where a group of people with common goals and values get together to push, encourage and advise each other.
If you only get occasional advice from your network then you are in significant net profit from your efforts.
Someone once told me the definition of a friend is someone who will help you move house with no notice and no expectation of payment. I’m not sure about that but I think mutual help is definitely part of the definition, and one of the ways you can benefit from networking. Not the house thing, the helping part.
• Promotion – Giving you a boost in traffic, reputation, or sales
• Community – Helping you build conversation and community
• Links – Links in terms of Google juice, or sharing news and info from their networks
• Introductions – Connecting you to people you would like to meet or who they think are awesome
• Getting you out of a hole – Fixing dodgy code, giving you a heads up when you goof, or having your back when someone attacks
5. Positive Influence
You become who you associate with. This works in the negative, as any parent will have thought about while considering who their kids friends are or will be. It also works in the positive, if you surround yourself with the right people then the attitudes, habits, world view, and associations will rub off.
Apparently there is some scientific basis for this, but I have seen it enough in my own life to know it is true. I grew up in a place where success and wealth were considered wrong. If you had nice things then you must be a bad person. You can see all around you what that does to a community. So I gravitated towards people with a more positive mindset, who shared my goals and values. If nothing else I am happier for having motivating influences rather than depressing ones.
Modeling successful people is a proven way to improve your own performance, what better than to be able to model people up close and personal?
The tribe you select will have a profound impact on your work and life, so choose well.
One of the worries with an article like this is that people will focus on the “bragging” or “name dropping” rather than on the message. Thank you in advance for pointing out what a jerk I am, and you are welcome.
The fact is I owe a great deal to my friends, contacts and extended network. If you get anything out of this article I want you to understand that every single new friend or contact you make is worth their weight in gold.
There is a danger that some people will take from this that they should go out with a gimme gimme frame of mind. That’s not what I am talking about. My hope is that you will see that while the impact might not be immediate, the compound effects of networking are significant and long lasting.
Originally posted on www.chrisg.com