Someone prompted me to think about communication in a new way.
It sprang – was sprung from – a dialogue about networking.
Networking is everything
Networking is a waste of time
Networking is a wasted tool
Networking is a waste of time
On any given day, each of these statements is true.
And each can easily be false.
These are never absolutes – because the critical variable, the person doing the networking, is key to the success, to the purpose, and to any lasting value from the networking activity or process.
Long gone are the days of swapping business cards, mining the Rolodex, of dialing for dollars – it’s just ‘who you know.’ Society operates differently, business culture is more an oxymoron than ever, and our tools are things we never imagined.
Or did we imagine them?
I remember, about 30 years ago, reading an article in a weekend paper – quoting someone working for the Canadian government going on and on about the importance of databases. I wasn’t that clear, at the point, what a database was. I only knew I didn’t have one. Today I couldn’t live without my database – it houses all the meaningful contacts I’ve ever made, more the result of a career of networking than as a tool for it.
We are in the ‘age of networking,’ and people who network can’t seem to stop talking about it. I remember networking when I was much younger and new in business. I was asked, in two stages, to get involved. I joined the local chamber of commerce – the pitch being you paid a fee to be connected to all these business owners (they provided a directory, and they put my business in it too), and the second stage of this, after signing up, was to attend a networking event.
No, it isn’t included – you pay. You pay to attend, you pay for a table/stall to display your wares, your brochures etc. Everybody there was, like you, new in their business, a new member of the chamber, and had two pockets full of business cards – one pocket for giving out, one pocket for gathering. End result, time invested, a stack of business cards from people who wanted my business but had none to give me. I expect they went home the same way.
We may, in fact, be moving into a post-networking age. Someone from my database, and a client, contacted me the other day – the discussion went quickly from the one little thing which was the cause of the call into a robust conversation on business process, he was picking my brain, not for information per se, but to better understand how his customers make decisions – wanting to get better leads earlier on so he will have a competitive advantage. I pointed him to, and have introduced him to a couple of people.
And in recent days on two other occasions, reaching out to people I know – one from previous business dealings, one from a social connections – each yielding intelligence and an introduction to someone I might do business with.
I find it interesting on LinkedIn, that’s the only social networking platform I use for business marketing – how many time I get connection requests from people who don’t know me, and they cannot tell anyone I am connected to; it’s as if being connected is for them, the equivalent to having a relationship that might lead to something valuable rather than realizing a database of any kind with people we don’t know is just a mailing list. The magic and value of the well-stocked and managed database is not just for mining data or for staying connected with a long list of strangers, but as a reference book to pluck what you need and to connect with the right person right when you need it.