Contact Richard:   +44 (0)121 663 0223 +44 (0) 7703 355045

Business – It’s all about relationships

I’m something of a computing history buff. I love reading books about the rise (and sometimes fall) of the people and ideas that shaped the Technology industry that I now work in. One such book I’ve read is “Dot.Bomb” by Rory Cellan-Jones, which examines the Dot.com bubble of the late 1990’s. The book, published in 2001, still makes fascinating reading today an a cost of just £2-£3, I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to go and grab a copy.

One interesting observation that the book makes is that at the time many people believed the Dot.com revolution was allowing everybody and anybody to make their fortune on-line. Certainly, it encouraged a culture of entrepreneurship as there were stories of everyone from Schoolboys to Graduates who were building web-sites around their ideas, which were often being valued at many millions “on paper”. But with the benefit of hindsight, there weren’t too many people who genuinely achieved great success or made a fortune thanks to those crazy times. In fact, Chapter 9 of the book features a paragraph which I’ll quote:-

“In the dot.com world, the key skill was not the ability to write elegant software, or understand the latest microprocessor architecture, or even draw up a convincing business plan. It was the people who knew how to network who stood the best chance…”

People do business with people they like

Only last week I gave a webinar presentation entitled “Finding Customers through Networking” (which if you missed, you can watch again at www.mspbusinessmanagement.com very shortly) in which I repeated the very familiar statement that “People do business with people they like”. I also mentioned that you could have the greatest business in the world, but if nobody knows who you are then you’ll not achieve great success.

Additionally, it was only last week that I talked about Social Networking vs Traditional Networking and concluded that they go hand in hand, and that doing one without the other isn’t making the full use of the tools at your disposal.

Making time for building relationships

One of the questions that I’ve had coming out of the webinar is “How do you make time for all this stuff?”. (“This stuff” often referring to Social Networking). My answer is – you make the time because it’s important.

Visualisation of Richard Tubb's LinkedIn ConnectionsMy former MSP business was built on the back of strong relationships, and the main reason my new career helping IT companies to grow is happily keeping me so very busy is mainly because of the many relationships I’ve formed in the past and the high levels of trust and confidence I’ve been able to build with people. (As a side-note, you can see a visualisation of my LinkedIn connections to the right. If you’re interested, you can build your own LinkedIn Map here).

Building relationships, be they with your prospective client base, strategic alliance partners, vendors, peers or even your competition isn’t a “nice to do” activity, if you have the time. Attending business networking events and using social networking isn’t something to think about once you’ve done everything else that’s important. Building relationships in this way is something you should be doing all the time, every day, as part of your standard day-to-day business activities.

Use a System

If you’re not a natural relationships person, then by all means use a system or a process – I consider myself a “people person” to whom relationships are very important, and yet I use many tools such as a CRM system to keep track of who, when and how – but the important thing is to ensure you build those relationships.

Because if you don’t then it doesn’t matter how much you know, or how great your idea or service is, history tells us that you won’t be as successful as you could have been.

Social Networking vs Traditional Networking

Statue of Shaking Hands

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with Clare Tucker of Birmingham based The Vocational Marketing Academy (VMA). Clare is a highly qualified and experienced Corporate Marketing professional, and after picking her brains on all things Marketing, our conversation turned to Social Networking vs Traditional Networking. Clare expressed frustration that so many people in business are missing a trick because they don’t understand the benefits of Social Networking, or that they think it’s a replacement for Traditional Networking. Clare understood that the two work hand-in-hand.

Why should I be using Social Networking?

For the past couple of years or more, I too have spent a good deal of time talking with business owners about Social Networking. I’ve found that those I speak to typically fall into one of three categories:-

  • “I know I should be doing it, but I don’t have the time”
  • “I’m not sure I understand why I should be doing it”
  • “I’m not doing it. It’s a waste of time.”

Those who say they “don’t have time” often regret saying it to me, as I start breathlessly rambling on about tools and techniques for using Social Networking. I typically stop when I see the glazed look in their eyes.

Those who say “It’s a waste of time” – I change the subject. Engaging this individual in a conversation about Social Networking and I may as well talk about either Politics or Religion, all three topics are going to be equally as fun to discuss.

Understanding the benefits of Social Networking

But the majority of the people fall into the second category, “I’m not sure I understand why I should be doing it”. What’s more, people in this category often cite the fact that they already spend a lot of time doing “traditional” networking – attending groups like BNI, the Chamber of Commerce and other local face-to-face business networking groups.

Spending time doing traditional networking is fantastic. People do business with people they like, and face-to-face networking builds up trust and respect. But when I ask traditional networkers what their “system” for building relationships with new people they’ve met, and maintain existing relationships between face-to-face networking events is… they often confess that they’ve got a lot of business cards on their desk gathering dust that they must get round to doing something with.

For me, this is where Social Networking comes in. I have written before about the process I use for collecting Business Cards, and it heavily involves linking up with people I’ve met in the “real world” via Social Networking to aid in continuing the conversation. We connect on LinkedIn, I start a conversation with them on Twitter, or in some cases, we friend on Facebook.

I consider myself a person to whom relationships are very important, so I spend a lot of time meeting with people and keeping in touch with others via the telephone – but I know I’m not alone when I regularly think of somebody, or a persons name comes up in conversation and I say “I’ve been meaning to catch-up with them”.

Keeping in touch

Social Networking is a great way for passively keeping in touch with people. If somebody is an active user of Social Networking then you can let people know what you’re up to, add value to conversations, share information of mutual interest, and much more. If they aren’t an active Social Networking user, you can still keep in touch with them quickly and easily via e-mail – sending a link via e-mail with a note saying “I thought you might be interested in this article I wrote/found/had passed on to me” is not time consuming, but maintains the relationship between ‘phone calls or meetings.

It works in reverse too. If you spend all of your time doing Social Networking, just like spending all of your time doing traditional networking – you’ll get some results, but you’re missing an opportunity to take things further.

Conclusion

There are many a relationship that I’ve built solely through Social Networking – where I’ve found people via their blog, Twitter, or visa-versa, and which I then take to the next level by organising a meet up at a face-to-face business networking event.

It all comes down the individual you’re dealing with. Some prefer regular face-to-face or telephone calls, some prefer social networking – but whatever their preference – having the right tools to stay in touch with them is paramount.

In conclusion, for me the argument of Social Networking vs Traditional Networking is a non-starter – it’s all just …networking!

Clare at The VMA has made available to download a free  Marketing training Module entitled “Traditional vs New Marketing”. Go grab it!

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