Monetizing Relationships: Your Network & Your Net Worth

August 8th, 2012   •   13 comments   

@seanmcginnis, @annedgallaher, @markwschaefer.  Amy with PR & Marketing maven @ginidietrich. Amy & social turned IRL friends @webby2001 & @markwschaefer. Also on the Howell porch with @momsofamerica, @joycecherrier, @anntran_, @jessicanorthey

Our firm has been fortunate recently to attract new business and gain the trust of some key, valued new clients. This always makes me happy but also a little nervous, as I am fiercely loyal to my clients—both the old ones and the new ones. While it’s important to constantly be “mining” for new work, it is even more important to keep focused on the work you have, which means doing excellent work for all clients—always. That is at the core of our business mantra and it has paid off as word has spread. But doing great work is not enough. You also must have a trusted network of business referrals that will recommend your work to others. This takes time and herculean effort to attain. We get most of our new business from people I have known as well as from our client base. In most businesses, keeping the pipeline of new work (or future work) full is vital, especially in B2B or service based organizations (CPA firms, law firms, etc.). It is not easy to produce a network unless you have been in a community for some time AND you have paid attention to the sales and marketing coaches out there. Meeting people—face to face—is vital in business and is something that social media can really boost or kill, depending on the situation and the leadership of the organization. Here are some tips on building your network and helping your organization turn into one that is sought after and ultimately successful:

1. I know I have beat this drum a lot but you have to work your butt off in your 20’s and 30’s if you really want to have a network that can add to your net worth down the line. I wrote an earlier blog post about some of this but it’s very true and even more important today.

2. Get out there and meet and talk to people. Social media and your iPhone cannot replace the benefits (and sales) you get from face to face conversations with clients. I fear our society is losing its ability to effectively communicate. So much is lost in emails, tweets, texts, etc. I tell my team that if you have to email back and forth more than once or twice, pick up the phone and talk to that client, reporter, vendor, etc. My team rarely sits in our office as often we are out in client meetings all over the region.

3. Pick volunteer, civic and professional activities (associations) that help further your career. For example, if you were in the healthcare field, you would try and align your professional goals with those in organizations most relevant to you. Once you have joined some of these, get active and step up to leadership positions, which helps you become known as someone who is a do-er. Actions speak louder than words. Businesses love people who can get the job done and then some.

4. Stay close to your clients and try to keep them for life. Many of our clients are keepers and you can really help them more when you know them well. The more we do for them, the more we can do for them. It’s a great cycle and one that progressive and growing companies understand.

5. Stay plugged into what is going on in the community and seek out “like-minded” people and people who are moving the needle in the same direction. Conversely, stay away from people in business who do not have goals, drive or the smarts to try and move up. I see young professional talent wasted because they “hang out” with those who don’t have the same drive and initiative. It’s also important to stay positive and stay focused on your goals.

6. Collect people in your professional network and stay connected to them by introducing them to others and constantly finding reasons to be in front of them. We do a lot of networking lunches in which we introduce clients to others we believe could add value for them. Often we are responsible for introductions that lead to sales and there’s the real ROI for our clients. This cannot happen if you don’t have a network and if you don’t really know your network.

7. Stay the course and your contacts will eventually end up in the C-Suite, especially if you know how to pick them! Many of my contacts are now at the top of their game, which means they are decision makers and owners. These are the people who can hire you and will. But once you have been hired, you also must be good.

8. Don’t take advantage of the network! Give to the people in your network; always look for ways to add value and it will come back to you automatically. I see people who do something for someone with a specific agenda and expectation. Sometimes this works but honestly, it’s easier and more productive to try and do for others and forget it. If your energy is spent keeping score instead of playing the game, you’ll be disappointed.

9. Finally, use social media to boost (not kill) your network. If I discover someone on Twitter or Facebook, and I think they would be someone I would like to know in real life, I try and find a way to meet them and learn about what they do. Sitting behind a computer all day is not the best way to build a network unless you are a blogger and/or have an online businesses. If you are in the service business like I am, I try and flip these social media contacts into real ones. Most of the time, I have not been disappointed. I have met some of the most incredible people on Twitter and they are now in my “real life” network—sometimes sending me business opportunities.

What are some other ways to increase your professional network?

13 comments

  1. Well said Ms. Howell. I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately. We build relationships with companies just like we build relationships with friends — one small interaction at a time!

  2. Amy Howell says:

    Thank you Mark! And consistency is important…you can’t just do it for a year and expect it to pay off. For me it’s been 25 years of working hard to develop my network. Thanks to social media, I can take that international! Look at how we met as a primary example! It just keeps getting better and more productive the more you work at it. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Patricia says:

    Amy,

    This is all so true. I spent almost 20 years working in large agencies in LA, Detroit, Atlanta before starting my own media firm 8 years ago. I am proud to say that all our business has come from former clients, former colleagues, or people who worked with us and recommend us to others.

    It’s not only building a network for years that pays off…its’ building the reputation for the work, for how you conduct business, for the passion and caring. I have guarded our integrity and reputation as much as the relationships themselves.

    I’m happy to have met you online and now we need to make it a goal to meet IRL!

    Patricia

  4. Amy Howell says:

    Great points Patricia and thank you so much. Yes, we need to meet IRL! I believe we have much in common;))

  5. That’s one of my favorite photos ever!

    And yes, yes, yes to this! I’m an introvert and I spend A LOT of time on the road so the very last thing I want to do when I get home is go out. But I discovered last year that not only did we not have any clients in Chicago, my friends were tired of asking me to do stuff only to hear, “I’m out of town.” So I’ve had to make a concerted effort to go to one networking event in Chicago each month. And, as luck would have it, we now have four clients in my home city. Amazing how that works, isn’t it?

  6. Great post Amy! As I read what you wrote, it struck me that the person that does all of this becomes a much deeper, richer person because of it. The skills, relationships and ties to one’s community are extremely important, and make life much substantial. Investing time in doing all of this is well worth it. By the way, I can’t believe we haven’t met yet!!!

  7. Amy Howell says:

    Gini: I know, I love this pic too. So glad you have some local business! Sure is nice to work more in your own home town. Nancy: You are the best and thanks to you both for tweeting my post!

  8. Molly says:

    This really resonated with me, Amy. In my work, I’m constantly networking and preaching the benefits of networking to job seekers. I definitely am selective about who I will offer to connect with someone as I don’t want to burn a connection I worked too hard to develop.

  9. Amy Howell says:

    Well said Molly! You & I are examples of making networking work for us!! Thanks for the comment;)

  10. Mona Sappenfield says:

    Such great advise. Well presented and so helpful. I definitely shared with my staff tonight and looking forward to opening the conversation with them about using your information.

  11. Amy Howell says:

    Well Mona, you are the star of success. High praise!!!

  12. Mary Tairua says:

    Great advice Amy. Networking is so important. As someone in my 20s I’m definitely in the beginning of this process but I’m enjoying learning from people wiser and farther along than myself. Thank you for sharing your tips!

  13. Amy Howell says:

    Mary: Thanks for stopping by and you are wise already to recognize the need to network. Start young and don’t give up and before you know it, you’ll be 20 years down the road and in a better position due to the ability to network with the best folks in your field, city, community, etc. Thanks for the comments.

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