Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Expand Your Definition of “Network”

What do you consider to be the members of your network? Most of us would include the following:

* Existing clients
* Prospective clients in those areas we plan to focus on
* Trade and professional associations, national committees, and other groups that are populated by those in the first two groups

Often, that is the extent of our network, and we happily sit in marketing meetings and other venues and refer to this list as the end-all of lists.

Let me suggest that you expand your network to include the following categories (for the reasons elucidated):

* Competitors. They may be competitors today but teaming partners tomorrow. And who knows the ins and outs of working with a client better than those who have worked with the client before.

* Equipment vendors. Vendors of equipment and supplies often see the raw, real-life, in-your-face behavior of entities. Lots of times you can learn more about clients or prospects from vendors than from hours of direct client contact.

* Laboratories. Often the labs that provide analytical services have a unique perspective on client relationships.

* University professors. Many times active research faculty have ongoing relationships with your prospective clients and can provide you with unique perspectives on who the real decision-makers are and how they think.

* Others who may influence clients, either directly or indirectly. For example, the local sewer authority may have a different perspective on an industrial discharger than you will get from any other source.

And now the question: How do you get access to these potential contacts? The answer: attend and become active in local associations. Everyone attends these events, from the client himself to the equipment vendor to the local lab. Go, wear your name tag, meet people (network!) and learn. Then apply what you learn to making your own network more efficient and effective. 

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