Monday, December 8, 2008

The Branded Networker

What ranks as the undisputed, most under-appreciated and under-utilized business and career-building skill?

Could it be the approach that allowed Mary to help her son Bill and his flaky friends transform their fledgling company from a small player in the Pacific Northwest into a global mega-corporation that changed our world?

Mary was the kind of woman who thought nothing of jumping in to help lead a worthwhile cause. In the mid-seventies, she became the first woman to serve as president of the King County's United Way. Later, she was appointed to the national board and in 1983 became the first woman to lead the United Way of America. While she served on that executive committee, Mary formed a friendship with a powerful CEO, who happened to mention that his company was shopping for an operating system to power its first personal computer.

And that’s how the introduction was arranged for Mary’s 24-year old boy Bill, to meet the powers-that-be at IBM. A few weeks later, I.B.M. took a chance by hiring Bill’s company to supply MS-DOS, a boost that eventually made Microsoft the world's largest software company for personal computers.

Business historians agree that the IBM deal is what launched Microsoft into the corporate stratosphere, which resulted to a large degree, from the networking skills displayed by Mary Gates.

Typically, a referral generates 80% more results than a cold call while about 75% of people get their jobs through networking. However, this subject hardly warrants a mention in most books about business leadership or sales development. MBA courses barely touch this topic with a 39-and-a-half foot pole. Today, many companies and careers sputter and stall by failing to plug into the connectors and rainmakers who build and maintain relationships, vital to business and professional success.

Is it because networking gets a bad rap? Could it be some folks confuse networking with:

a) Schmoozing?
b) Pitching products or services?
c) Canned "infomercials"?
d) Hunting down leads?
e) All of the above?

Although Mary has since passed on, she exemplified this clarifying definition of networking which is: “Discovering what you can do for someone else to build extensive, long-term business and social connections”

Has the practice of networking changed since Mary’s heyday?

Yes and no.

It may come as no surprise that people still like to do business with people they like, know and trust, however, the methods used to build and nurture key relationships has changed dramatically. Now, more than ever, networking requires an element of “branding” for anyone serious about capitalizing on Word-of-Mouth … and Word-of-Mouse. Think of it as two business disciplines – networking and branding – converging as one through a concept we refer to as “The Branded Networker”.

There at least 12 Elements that allow a "Branded Networker" to flourish:

1. Be UnCommonly Remarkable

Meet Scott Ginsberg. He wears a nametag constantly (24/7/365), in an effort to make people friendlier. Scott has become known as "The Nametag Guy" ever since he put one on in 2004 and never took it off as. Scott understands the essence of a brand - personal or business - and how it can take on a life of its own.

2. Be a Farmer

Networking is about FARMING as opposed to hunting. It's about planting seeds that one day may bear fruit in the form of a long-term business or social relationship. Networking etiquette demands that you are not there to SELL anything, other than yourself and ways you can help others. It's about beginning a relationship, not closing a deal. And while it's not cool to use networking to sell, you will find it tough to sell without networking.

The other ten elements will be shared tomorrow when "The Branded Networker" is presented through the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce

One of the best "Branded Networkers", TSB has ever encountered is Elizabeth Clark from Manchester England. As the self-styled, well-branded "Flirt Guru", Elizabeth also offers a unique female perspective on another potentially awkward aspect of networking.

Ready to be schooled in "Breast Etiquette"?

We come into this world with nothing and leave with nothing. Our worth measured only by what we were able to give along the way. Can you think of the last time you saw a U-Haul following a hearse on the way to the cemetery

"Branded Networkers" like Mary, Scott and Elizabeth vividly demonstrate a belief that the Life of Business and the Business of Life is focused less on sole purpose but, more so on our soul purpose.

Is there a larger purpose you could discover through networking?

What impact would it have on your brand?

"A brand is a story embedded in the mind of the market" KAREN POST

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