Business networking in a time of business challenge
I recently posted on networking for people in job search in our current very challenging economic climate and the primary take home lesson from that is that people in long term search have to start looking at job search as career change, and that this is best done by widening the reach that you search within. For networking this means reaching out to connect beyond the comfort zone of you current acquaintances and their immediate contacts. The limitations and restrictions of our comfort zones can in fact become our greatest impediments to long term success, and both for their limiting our available options and for lulling us into overlooking what we may in fact be missing out on.
If this is a time of stress for those looking for new work opportunities, it is just as much so for businesses as clients and potential clients look for ways to save, and to cut back on expenditures – and as active marketplaces shrink as a direct result. Every business owner faces challenges and the potential for challenges when faced with the type of economy we are going through. Marketing has to be adjusted in response and this includes viral marketing and networking based marketing. But networking per se holds value in more than just the direction of capturing market share from new and current customers. It can add value throughout the business, as I will at least touch on in this posting.
My goal here is to discuss the constraints boxes – the automatic limiting assumptions and the self-imposed limits to our reach that we follow in our businesses too.
Look to your supply chain and the businesses you do business with as a client. Do you automatically turn to the same suppliers every time or do you reach out to and connect with other potential sources of value as well? Do you see any outreaching as the responsibility of the businesses that would sell to you and simply take a passive role here or do you seek to proactively reach out for better deals and wider ranges of sources that would empower your business? Networking is a key to stepping out of ruts here, and proactively reaching out to expand opportunity.
Do you proactively reach out to new customers? Marketing based on generic tools and messages that target specific demographics can make a real difference but there are times when more individualized outreach may offer greater value. This certainly holds where you seek out clients and business opportunities from what would potentially be major clients. Do you look for opportunities to reach out more individually where that would be more cost-effective? Do you really look to see where more individualized outreach might offer greater return on investment? Do you look for ways to augment your more demographics targeting marketing using Web 2.0 and interactive, and networking approaches?
Do you network with your current customers to gather feedback on your products and services that can be developed into new market strength?
By now you have probably already found at least one example here where you find yourself saying “… and that is called ‘_ fill in the blank _’ in this context and not networking.” I add you are probably right. But these and other examples use networking as a component and effective networking can be a central component, regardless of labels used.
I use the word networking because I see value in leveraging all of the strengths and tools of business and social networking in mapping out and optimizing your supply chain, your customer base, your market research-based product and service development and more. And when overall marketplaces are stagnating and even shrinking it is important to look for and capitalize on any real value adding edges that you can develop. In this, more effective connection with the communities your business functions in is one of your best sources of competitive advantage and who ever does this best will in the long run do best as a business.
• The biggest impediment to effective networking in a business context is the inertia of standard practice and process that is simply done and taken for granted.
• Businesses that stop simply following their tried and true paths and look up, and that reach out for new opportunities and in new directions are the businesses that will survive and thrive coming out of this protracted economic downturn.
• Networking has to be a key part of that, and networking outside of your usual contacts so you can capture new perspectives, new information, new insight and new leads.
In a few days I am going to follow up on this with a second connected posting on networking and crowd sourcing, and developing new business and marketplace opportunity.
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