In this post I expand on the third tip in my series 5 Tips for Starting a Home Based Business: Build New Networks
In that initial, overview post I wrote about building new networks:
As my handwritten scrawl shows, the first version of this was “Build your networks”. The trouble is, while the networks we have now might sustain us for a while, our new business focus may demand, not that we trash our existing networks, but that we complement it with new networks relevant to our marketing strategy.
If you are starting your business now or giving it a re-boot, social media offers you literally unprecedented opportunities to build amazing new, and amazingly profitable, networks.
I am not for a moment minimizing the importance of existing networks. Just the other day I was reflecting on the fact that a large proportion of my business over the past 20+ years has come, directly or indirectly, through networks I already had way back when I first set up my consultancy business, literally from my kitchen table. Which means that network has been worth literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to me.
Our old networks may not serve us adequately into the future
The networks we have when we leave the corporation or the government office may well deliver us plenty of business for a while, and hopefully for a long time. As I have just indicated, I have been fortunate. On the other hand, we need to accept that after a period of time those networks may not be able to deliver as they could before.
Ever go back to a place or group where you used to be a “somebody” and see no one you know or who knows you?
We need to keep building our networks and be careful not just to stick with the ones we know.
As my good friend and master networker, Bill Vick, likes to say about networking, you should dig the well before you are thirsty.
And it’s not just about networking with potential clients. That is thinking much too narrowly. We need to build professional networks in fields where we would like to work and do business. That includes networking with our competition.
For instance, I have a network of coaching colleagues now, which did not exist before 2002 and one in social media, a network which did not exist for me before 2003. I could think of many of those people are competitors. I choose to think of them as colleagues.
And in fact those networks have been immensely valuable in terms of building my business, as well as in providing me with new, trusted friendships and professional alliances. Not least, they have also provided me with opportunities to serve the community, in various not-for-profit organizations within those networks.
I also have a network, small so far, of business colleagues in China or who are very experienced and knowledgeable about business in China.
It gives me great confidence to be able to tell clients that if I don’t know the answer to a question I can probably find someone in my network who does.
Look for scope to expand specific networks
As our business grows and changes, and as we get clearer about what we really want to be doing and the areas we want to focus on, it is a good idea to look at our networks and see where we need to do some more sowing and nurturing to make particular parts of our network grow.
There are now some great visualization tools that can help us with that.
As well as TouchGraph which produces visualizations of your Facebook network, as above, one tool that seems to offer scope for some interesting analysis and strategizing, is the LinkedIn Maps tool from LinkedIn Labs, which produces visualizations like the one below. I’m just familiarizing myself with this but already I can see some scope for thinking about my network and taking some strategic action to expand it in various sectors.
I haven’t figured out the key to the clustering of several groups under various colors. It does look as if:
- the pink group, bottom right, is a coaching sub-network
- a small, light orange group top right is a China network
- the reasonably large, orange group, bottom center, is pretty certainly a social media network
Still working on the others, but the power for me of this kind of visual presentation is that it raises questions which I can usefully address in working out my own roadmap for engagement via LinkedIn for the next year and beyond.
For example, should I be looking to build a bigger coaching network, or say a bigger China network, and how would such decisions relate to and serve my business objectives?
Share your story
I would love to hear some stories of how your networks, old or new, have helped you in business. And of course I’m happy as always to respond as best I can to any questions about how to apply some of this thinking.
The series: 5 Tips for Starting a Home Based Business