When it comes to you as the “decision-maker”, you need to have the skill to surround yourself with staff members that have the required technical and real-world experience. But we all know this. I am not telling you anything new. But let’s take a look at surrounding yourself with experts outside your business that fulfill different facets of your company’s needs, for example with your marketing, PR, and promotional campaigns.
If you are a medium to large-size firm you probably have the financial support to have a staff to create, design, implement and measure your marketing efforts. You know how true this is! You have to have experts in various marketing areas to make the most of the tools and strategies available. I am referring to experts in traditional media well as emerging media. Of course, if your firm doesn’t have a social media specialist…you could always hire one or contract one for a project.
Network to compete with “the big boys”!
For small companies, maybe like yours, believe it or not you can be competitive. How do you make your business competitive with the “big boys”? Implement a professional networking strategy. Strive to connect with experts in different areas of discipline, such as marketing, within available networking groups.
TRADITIONAL NETWORKING GROUPS
Person-to-person/social/professional groups provide many networking options from which to choose. Some examples of traditional networking (service organizations) groups are:
- Elks Club – http://www.elks.org/
- Rotary Club – http://www.rotary.org/en/Pages/ridefault.aspx
- Kiwanis International – http://sites.kiwanis.org/kiwanis/en/home.aspx
- Toastmasters – http://www.toastmasters.org/
- Business Networking International – http://www.bni.com/
- “Leads” groups – Ex: http://www.oneleadsgroup.com/ or http://www.leadsgroupone.com/
- Local Chamber of Commerce
- Industry organizations
If nothing else, I would strongly suggest that you join your local chamber of commerce if you haven’t already. Once you become a chamber member go one step further – become an ambassador. The role of ambassador provides opportunities for you to network with other members in a more non-threatening role. Ambassadors are given a designated group of members to represent. As an ambassador you are responsible to ensure that the chamber is fulfilling your members’ needs; such as make sure members have their chamber plaques and are invited to chamber events.
Other options are BNI, leads groups, or informal business networking groups. Be aware, that BNI and leads groups usually require a fee and have rules by which you must abide.
Whichever networking groups you choose to join, you will reap benefits. You need to know going in that it will be necessary to put in the time, commitment and energy to realize the value.
ONLINE NETWORKING OPTIONS
A suggestion I strongly endorse is to join and participate in online networking groups. If you use them correctly, you will find them to be quite helpful in advancing your company and you. What do I mean by “correctly”? Online groups obviously are a great place to make contacts, but also provide an excellent place to start or join a conversation with a large amount of people. You are able to post questions, answers questions, give advice etc. Here are a few online networking platforms:
- LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/
- Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/
- BizNik – http://biznik.com/
- Industry organizations – Ex: American Marketing Association, Tire Industry Association
For example, LinkedIn in particular offers many industry and/or discipline-specific groups that you are free to join, or initiate a group. BizNik in particular will post multi-page articles you have written, along with giving members great networking opportunities. Check out them out online, and determine which one is best for you.
Remember, when you are networking to keep in the forefront of your mind that it’s not all about you. Before letting other networkers know what you need, find out what they need…where they need assistance. Believe me, in the long-run taking this tact will prove fruitful.
The larger and more diverse your network contacts, the more you will have to offer others and receive from other group members. Many groups like BNI also have the philosophy that the group members consider other group members as their extended sales force. This is a synergy that you should exploit.