Monday, December 10, 2007

Strategic Networking, from Get More Referrals Now!

I've been reading Bill Cates' excellent book on referral marketing, Get More Referrals Now! It's obviously more about using referrals that drive your business growth, but I recommend it as a "companion" for those who are looking to infuse the value of professional networking into their relationships with clients. Cates sees "strategic networking" as an important part of building a referral-based business, and there was one particular passage that I thought was apropos to this blog.

I'm not sure I buy into every word of this, but I like the idea of seeing your network of relationships as an ever-strengthening series of wheels within wheels, where the relationships grow stronger as you move inward through the circles.

"Lynne Waymon offers these distinctions as a way to determine those with whom you should spend your time. She says, 'Think of a bull's eye with concentric circles. On the outside of the rim are Acquaintances, one the next inner ring are the Associates, then come the Actors, then the Advocates, and finally the Allies.'

"Acquaintances: There's no circle around these folks because they barely know who you are. You bump into them from time to time. You're not in their network, and they're not in yours. An acquaintance is usually a non-productive relationship. To create productivity with these people, you must upgrade them to associates.

"Associates: You see these people regularly because you have chosen to join a group that brings you in contact with them, or because you are pursuing contact with one another outside of any formal group. Since you are meeting regularly, you have the opportunity to get to know these people in your respective areas of competence. As you begin to know and appreciate one another, opportunities for referrals and other help begin to emerge. Mutually beneficial exchanges will flourish as you and your contacts become associates.

"Actors: Think of actors on a stage. They are in a dialogue. Something's happening between them. Actors are the people in your life with whom you are actively exchanging valuable information and resources. Over time, as trust grows, you become interested in adding to each other's success. When you really tune in to what your contact is looking for, you move him or her from an associate to an actor.

"Advocates: Advocates are people who go out of their way to find opportunities to refer and recommend you to others. They are so confident in your abilities and your integrity that they are willing to put their good names on the line to promote you. Advocates make sure the people you want to meet hear about you before they hear from you.

"Allies: Think o these people as being your very own board of trustees. They care about your success. They give you advice that you respect because they have become experts on you. They cheer you on in every arena of your life. They give you a nudge when you need it most. They celebrate your successes with as much enthusiasm as you do theirs. You won't have time to cultivate too many relationships at this level, so you must select these people carefully.

"Lynne adds, "One word of warning: You'll be labeled a nuisance networker if you violate the natural progression of networking contacts. You must allow the trust to develop comfortably for all parties.'"

No comments: