Category Archives: Network

Social Media Networking Strategy – Demystified by John Coupland

Like most SME owners. I have been told that it is important to have an online presence so as not to lose any sales opportunities. True, 90% of our sales come from our online presence.  More and more people make online purchases, look for online reviews and research online before they make up their mind. So, I have decided to include social media in the business strategy. A few years ago, I have been to a number of workshops about social media. I tried to use my notes to help me navigate the online landscape. In terms of business management, I tend to try out on my own first so that I understand the implications and build a working knowledge of it. When the time is right, I can then go and hire the person whom I think will fit with what I need.

Is Social Media a hype or is it truly something that can be leveraged in any business strategy?

I attended a talk by John Coupland, some years ago. He offered a number of practical tips. I bought his book: “ ACCELerate Your Social Media”, thinking that it may come useful. Like any typical business owner, I have allowed things to get in the way and focused more on operations rather than strategic vision. I opened the book very recently when I have been reviewing the marketing strategy of my business. It is the first time that mapping out a strategy that includes both online and offline networking strategies became reality. Within 2 months of implementing some of John’s tips, I am now seeing the results with increased sales leads.

John talks about “return on investment” – a measure that clearly indicates a results oriented approach. This is what he mainly preaches when it comes to an overall online strategy. He helps you determine the target Return On Investment and plan the strategy that will help you achieve it. In his book, John provides a number of tools to review your social media strategy and it actually helped me to identify the gaps that I need to address to make my online strategy more effective.  Whatever works – replicate, replicate and replicate!

Integrating your social media strategy into your overall business strategy is critical. However, many people think that it is about having an online presence. It is goes beyond that. Engagement creates sales leads and strengthens your network. So, merging the offline with the online is crucial. Everything is about People First. Very few people follow up once you have accepted their request to be part of their Linkedin network. In many networking events, not many people would ask you what they can do for you… The reason to meet should be of potential benefit. “Great networking is about bringing the best out of people. If you achieve this, you will be bringing the best out of yourself too.”- John Coupland

It is difficult to engage with your network all at the same time and on a regular basis. So creating a “Core Network” that can add value and whom you can also support is recommended. The Core Network may account for only 20% of your whole network and will bring 80% positive results – the Pareto Principle.

Social media should be used as a means to support the other appropriate channels to market your business. John recommends to start with a couple of social networks. “Less Is More”. There are No “must have” social networks. As a business owner, this is very relevant as being in the driving seat means that you are overseeing the whole operations, thinking strategically and reviewing occasionally to assess your progress. Building strong relationships with your network is more effective in generating business rather than spreading your engagement too thinly across many.  His next advice is “KISS” – Keep It Simple Stupid.

Also, networking is about leveraging the collective wisdom and experience. So, it is important to network not only with potential clients but also with experts in your industry too. Clarity and consistency is key in your communication. Your online presence across different social media network needs to be consistent.

Effective and great networking works when you

  1. Have a positive Attitude
  2. Think the bigger picture
  3. Are Creative
  4. Are giving
  5. Have a “Can Do” approach

As Anon says it well: “ if you want to be incrementally better, Be Competitive! If you want to be exponentially better,  Be Cooperative!”

 

Networking Can Be Fun For Introverts

Networking, networking and networking – this is the most common advice given to anyone looking to change jobs, to find more clients or to make a career change… When you are an introvert like I am, it seems a formidable challenge when I was first given this advice a few years back. Having recently settled in the UK and looking for business opportunities, networking in an environment as a newcomer seems almost impossible.

I knew that I would be able to network effectively at some point in time in the future. It required me to get out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. That is something that I have had a lot of practice over the years. I focused on my ultimate goal and got on with networking. Today, I network once or twice a week and am able to make relevant connections 75% of the time. I would like to share with you how I got on to achieve those results.

  1. Define Your Ultimate Goal

What is your motivation to network? How important is this to you? Who else will benefit if you are able to network effectively? These are the things that would help you make progress and enjoy networking. Anything that you enjoy doing will undoubtedly bring good results and you would be able to do it over the long term.

  1. Taking Baby Steps

London gives you endless opportunities for meeting new people. Meetup.com is a place where new groups and events are being created. A diverse range of subjects are covered: photography, culture, therapies, business etc. Some of these events are free and it allows you to go and explore. Pace Yourself. Choose to go to an event with no expectations and see what it feels like, how did it go and whether you have had any positive experience. To make it easier, choose one where the size of the audience is not going to be overwhelming. Other networking groups are BNI, Sterling Business Network, London Chamber of Commerce, etc.

  1. Choose events on subjects that you enjoy

I am not a great sportsperson. So, attending a sports event is not my thing. I enjoy going to a writers’ club or going to listen to an inspirational talk. I am going not only to meet people but also to learn something new. So, in case I don’t make any useful connections – it does not matter. I would leave with a few golden nuggets.

  1. Review And Change Strategy

Every few weeks, review and make a list of the things you like and those that you don’t. One of the good things being an introvert, we are self-sufficient as we tend to look inwards rather than outwards. Strategies are about changing our behaviours and attitudes.  Your behaviour is changed when you modify your beliefs. Whatever you don’t like – decide what you would like instead. Then, list options about how to go about.

  1. Trial and Error

There is no deadline about getting the results you are aiming for. Strategies are meant to evolve over time and with priorities changing, your strategies would need to adapt to the current situation. Flexibility is important when people are involved. You can only control your behaviour, your beliefs. Believing that you can control other people’s attitudes is a myth!. Faking your attitude is also a no go.  It does not help when you are trying to reach out to like minded individuals… you end up with the wrong crowd!

  1. You Are Not Alone

Being an introvert, you don’t shout at the top of the roof, who you are… You tend to make your way discretely. Yet, there are many of you who have overcome similar challenges and found their place. Susan Cain delivered an inspirational TED talk a few years ago about the power of introverts. Following her talk, she recently set up a community for Introverts: Quiet Revolution. There are many testimonials of introverts having achieved their goals such as public speaking, successful business owners..

  1. Networking Is About Listening

Networking is neither about collecting business cards nor about the ones who stands out. It is about creating connections that would be playing a role in your career, business or even in your personal life. Some of the people I met at networking events happen to be my friends, mentor and people I aspire to be. For you to make the relevant connections, use one of the main strengths of an introvert – be an empathetic listener. Making small talk and learn to know more about the people you meet comes quite easy when you are genuinely listening and not listening to reply.

  1. Do One To One Meetings

When you feel good about someone, don’t hesitate to ask to meet for a coffee. You will be surprised at how much you may have in common with the person. Trust your guts. Your guts instincts work when you are true to yourself and be accepting of you are.

  1. Take Time Out

Introverts need their own breathing space and time alone. This is how you recharge your batteries. Schedule quiet time for yourself on a regular basis even if it means that you don’t meet anyone for a day or two. Your “me” time actually helps to access your personal creativity and come up with new ideas, new options and renewed enthusiasm. Being is as important as Doing for Introverts.

Today, when I tell the people that I am an introvert – they are surprised. I have learnt to be at ease talking to strangers, doing public talks and training groups of people.  It has taken me a while to learn to use my introverted personality to my advantage when I am networking.  .  Networking is not only for sales people and are not for extroverts only. It can be fun and fulfilling when you learn to harness your personality to create your tribe and grow your network!

The Concept Of Time

Time is considered to be a limited resource due to the speed at which information is disseminated online. There is now an easy access to emails due to smart phones.

There is a general belief that “there is not enough time” and any delays we encounter becomes a source of anxiety, frustration. According to Deepak Chopra, time is the movement of thoughts. So, allowing technology to dictate our use of time and our pace of life can lead to time management being a continuous source of stress.

In the “Western” world, to meet deadlines, to be punctual and good timekeeping skills are highly valued. More attention is paid to the tasks at hand, to stick to the agreed agenda and not much is done to build the right kind of rapport with the counterparty. It is assumed that if we do what is expected of us, then we have demonstrated our commitment and professionalism.

In other cultures such as Japan, punctuality is interpreted as a gesture of respect and courtesy. On the other hand, in India and in many other parts of the world, it is expected that meetings will start behind schedule as being late is considered as “normal”. Building rapport and creating trust amongst the parties are more important than punctuality. They will spend the time needed to ensure that the meeting ends at the “right” place. Relationships are the determining factor in growing your business and time keeping may be considered a trivial matter.

However, there may be different rules applied depending on whether you are local or you are a foreign visitor. In Madagascar, for example, the locals will not be expected to arrive in time if they are meeting their countrymen. On the other hand, if the counterparty is a foreign visitor, punctuality becomes a must as a sign of respect.

Time is also measured differently. In East Africa, you have the KiSwahili time. In our part of the world, time is usually counted as from midnight to midday. In East Africa, time is from dawn to dusk. Seven o’clock in the morning, in the Western World, is actually one o’clock in the morning in KiSwahili. It is assumed that the sun rises at around 6 am and sets around at 6 pm. If you want to know more about KiSwahili time, please click here. In most East African countries, people are used to the Western approach of measuring time when it comes to business meetings. However, when it comes to dealing with the local tradesmen, it is useful to ensure that you all have the same concept of timekeeping.

Time is in continuous flow with no limits and boundaries. The social norms of each culture have given it different interpretations. When meetings run late, trains are delayed or deadlines are not met, it is probably useful to take a deep breath and step back. What matters most to the person you are meeting and what compromise are you willing to make?

Create Your Tribe

We all live in circles of friends, family, co workers and acquaintances. No matter how shy we are, we have to interact with people on a daily basis. Your network of relationships is part of your assets. Assets are things that we have and that contribute positively to our lives, be it professional or personal.

Relationships are complex, most of the time. There is no standard recipe for successful and healthy relationships. We learn by trial and error and by being self aware. Like any asset you have, it needs energy, time and personal commitment. These relationships are even more crucial when you work in an environment unfamiliar to you such as being an expat or self employed or running your own business. It is not enough to have a number of business cards lying on your desk or having a number of “friends” on Facebook. Personal engagement with your network is important on a regular basis. Engagement is about getting to know each one of them, making a connection. This takes time and a genuine effort to invest in your network.

Creating a strong rapport takes place over time and it requires a commitment to add value to the lives of the people you engage with. Walking the extra mile to show appreciation is the personal touch that you can add. Whatever value you can add is about your personality, your talents and your life experiences. Your personal brand will determine how strong your interpersonal skillset is and how confident you are in being able to bring something that your network will value.

Adding value is not a one off thing that you can do at the start of any relationship. It is a continuous process of exchange between two persons. The universal law of giving and receiving ensures that there is a balance and allows for the relationship to be of value to both parties. It is quite unhealthy to be always at the receiving or giving end. It creates frustration, resentment when things go wrong.

Achieving that balance allows you to leverage your network. SME’s are usually run by small teams of 1-3 people at most. Taping into your relationships allows you to have access to a broader range of skills and experiences. You may even create a mastermind group of your peers whose skills set and experience is complementary to yours. For expats, having a wider network allows you to broaden your scope, possibly add value to your new job and be the support that you need during the early days of your new life and new career phase.

Your network is definitely your net worth when you regularly engage, add value and leverage your relationships.