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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Networking Events: Push, Pull or Repulse?

By Jason Alba
Career Transition Editor

As you network, whether you in a job search or not, do you find you typically:
a. attract people towards you, and get leads, offers and information with little effort, or
b. have to work hard to help people understand what you do and why you could work together, or why they should consider you as some kind of subject matter expert, or
c. have nice first-conversations, but hardly ever get a second or third conversation?
When I speak about personal branding, I talk about the power of a strong personal brand, and how it can create a pull marketing strategy, as opposed to a push marketing strategy. In a pull marketing strategy, people already know what you have to offer, or your value, or somehow relate what they know they want/need with what you offer. They come to you and want to engage, without any further education. Think about the things you "run into the store for" ... things like toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, bread, milk... these are things you don't need any education on, you just buy them. This is an example of a pull scenario.

In a push scenario, education is needed. Have you ever gone to a grocery story or super store (Costco or Sam's) and walked by a display table where someone is ready to let you taste a new product? Most of the products I see aren't new (salsa, tacos, some microwaveable thing, etc.), but they are new product lines for a certain brand. The person displaying the product shares all the great things about the product, why you should buy it, the price, and where to find it. You didn't go to the store looking for that product, but hopefully with their information, and a sample of the product, you'll like it and buy it. This is an example of push marketing.

I've seen very successful pull-marketing strategies executed online. In fact, on my JibberJobber blog I have a monthly recognition for people who are touting their personal brand in a way that is or should be successful. These professionals are letting others know about their professional passions, in their profession or industry. They are giving a window into their breadth and depth, and allowing others to determine if they are subject matter experts of thought leaders (or full of hot air). Many of them are building communities, and creating conversation amongst their readers. When they need something, have an announcement, want ideas, they can turn to their community, who already respects them.

I've also seen successful pull-marketing tactics at face-to-face networking events. One of the most important pull-marketing tactics in a face-to-face networking event is simply a smile. Other things, such as a nice handshake, ability to engage in conversation, initiating a conversation, and not looking around the room anxiously to see who else you can talk with (someone more important than me), help in your pull-marketing in a face-to-face event. Don't think you need to be an extrovert in order to successfully network in person. Introverts can do just fine (especially if they don't try and be an extrovert during this time).

While a push-marketing strategy is harder, there are things you can do to make it successful. Make sure you polish your "elevator pitch" or "30 second commercial" or whatever you call it. The more refined your pitch is, and the more you practice it (so it rolls off the tongue naturally), the more you should have people say "really, tell me more about that." Continually hone your elevator pitch, and work on the communication after that "tell me more" question. Stay on-brand... don't wander into stories and areas that won't help your cause, as you might just get a few minutes with someone, and you don't want to waste that time on things that won't help take your relationship to the next level.

Another critical thing to do in a networking opportunity is to ask questions, and then LISTEN. If you ask someone "what do you do?" you need to then listen, and become engaged. Part of this relationship-building process is getting (listening) as much as giving (talking), and if you can't listen you may quickly be branded as the guy/gal who just talks about himself. That's the person who no one wants to network with.

Of course, beware of repulsing others. It may be as simple as a dead handshake, bad breath, continually looking around at others, name dropping, bragging, not knowing when to shut up (or stop talking about YOU YOU YOU), telling inappropriate jokes or stories, hogging someone's entire time, following them around... the list can go on and on. Don't come across as needy or disrespectful, or your relationship may never go to the next level.

Push, pull or repulse. The difference can be subtle, but successful strategies are always planned, and on purpose. Let me know what you are doing to have a successful push or pull strategy, or what you've seen people do to repulse you! E-mail me at


Jason Alba is the CEO and creator of, and author of “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???” After a corporate downsizing impacted Jason in 2006, he experienced firsthand the difficulties of conducting a job search. Drawing on his extensive computer software and IT experience, Jason analyzed the job search process and developed, the gold standard in career management technology.

Widely acknowledged as a leading career management evangelist, Jason continues to spread the word to job seekers through his blog, He is co-author of “I’m on Facebook – Now What???”and offers tutorials on how to fulfill the role of being CEO of You, Inc.

Jason Alba is:

CEO of

Author of I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???

Co-author of I’m on Facebook – Now What???

Founder of CEO Training for Me Inc.

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