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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Refining Your Networking - Monetizing Your Contacts

by Douglas Castle, Guest Columnist

This article is brought to you by

Dear Fellow Networkers and Readers:

I am honored to have been invited to fill in for (as best I can) Adam J. Kovitz's customary column in this edition of THE NATIONAL NETWORKER.

As many of you know, Adam's father passed on September 22nd and Adam's family is in mourning. I send Adam and his family my most heartfelt condolences, as I am certain that we all do, and I am hopeful that this article will do him justice.


On topic, I am persistently confounded by the theoretical notion of networking and the great feats which it should be able to accomplish, as opposed to stark contrast of the real-life, real-time applications of networking, which are, generally speaking, neither well-organized, nor optimized. As an outsider, when I observe networking activities and networking organizations, I see the following tendencies:
1. The collection of as many names as possible to build an enormous contact list or group, with minimal selectivity and without even an introductory email or discussion;
2. Very limited conversational activity between networkers, with the exception of one-sided self-promotion, or discussions about the subject of networking instead of the subject of creating mutually beneficial relationships through the vast reaches of cyberspace. It is a strange sort of auditorium where everyone appears to be either just issuing authoritative-sounding academic proclamations (advising or just theorizing) about networking. Sometimes it is somewhat of a marketplace where everyone is a seller and no one is buying;
3. Very limited discussion, on both the "one-on-one" level, and on the forum level, about specific business requirements (through actual questions), co-venture opportunities, or about specific deals;
4. Very limited discussion or effort toward converting a network of contacts into a cohesive group, or a united team for the benefit of all of its members. The opportunity for exponentializing power and accomplishing great things through a cooperative group effort is often all but ignored. By way of several simplistic examples: If all of the members of a 5,000-person group decided to favor a website or blog, that website or blog could rapidly rise to the highest search engine rankings; if all of the members of a 5,000 person group decided to each contribute the sum of $10.00 per month to a cause, that cause (or the organization championing that cause) would be in receipt of $50,000.00 per month! The Law Of Large Numbers is indisputable. And [one should never start a sentence using the word "And"] what if each group member were able to pursuade 3 acquaintances of his or hers from outside of the network to contribute the same amount? The cause (or company, or candidate) could receive $200,000.00 per month...all from cooperative networking through the inexpensive medium of cyberspace!
5. Very limited interpersonal communication from individual member to individual member to build genuine human rapport. Communication is an essential part of developing value in any relationship, and it requires an investment of time. If you do not invest that time, it is highly unlikely that you will ever convert contacts into relationships. I belong to a great number of networking groups, and I receive very few communications from my fellow members, either directly, or posted to an online community forum. How can we help each other if we know nothing about each other. What good are contacts who remain strangers? Friends are not truly friends until they are tested.

I would propose the following practices to help us all to monetize our networking:

1. Send a letter to each of your contacts introducing yourself and what you do;

2. Forward news articles of interest and other items to your contacts at least monthly to share information with them and to remind them of your existence;
3. Submit legitimate business and other specific requests to your network at every opportunity; Don't just advise... seek advice. I have seen too many questions posed along the lines of "What will you achieve on Linked In in 2008?" That is, to my thinking, a wasted communication opportunity... Networkers should talk about business as well as about networking!

4. Organize group efforts (cooperative fundraising, advertising, endorsements, reciprocal linking, et cetera) at every opportunity. Turn your contact list into a relationship list; turn your relationship list into an action group. Create a cooperative community. Create a team. make things happen.
5. Introduce new members to your network under your sponsorship. In fact, send out a mailer to your group about the new member so he or she will be warmly received as a friend. Do the same with good referrals from within the group;
Be consistent. Be persistent. Focus your efforts. "Work" your network. Build your Relationship Capital through your participation and visibility. MONETIZE.

Adam's series on Monetizing Relationship Capital will continue next month.

Thank you, one and all, for your kind attention.

Douglas Castle

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy

The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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