Networking Advice from a ‘clown’
Well, not a clown but a comedian. Rodney Marks is a professional corporate comedian who runs the LinkedIn forum Corporate Comedy. He recently gave some helpful business advice on the forum. An aspirant corporate comedian asked, ‘How did you approach your first customer, who did you talk to, what service sells……….etc.’ Marks’s response contained sound advice for any independent consultant in any field, whether new to the game or an old hand.
His advice assumes that you have done the basics: you know what you can and want to offer, and you have a business card and a portfolio or outline of your business. You also have an on-line presence, preferably your own website, but also Facebook and LinkedIn and anywhere else you have chosen to place your image and profile. The object is twofold: to gain and stir interest among new contacts and to provide a place for interested people to find out more about you. The nature of your on-line presence will depend on your business and offering. You are not out to follow the herd, but you do want to be found.
Marks made four suggestions, which I have quoted and then added my own comments to each. I shall add two of my own suggestions in the next article. The original discussion can be found here.
1. ‘Your LinkedIn profile is better than a business card, more verifiable than a website. Invest some time in getting it to represent you in a persuasive manner. There is plenty of info online about how to use LinkedIn well. Spend maybe 20-30 minutes a day working it all out.’
The same applies to Facebook and other networking sites relevant to your business. Look around LinkedIn (and Facebook, etc.) for people with similar skills and business models to yours and for ideas on how to market your skills. Identify what differentiates you. Upgrading to the LinkedIn Premium may be worthwhile for some. But learn to use LinkedIn well before you spend money.
2. ‘… approach people in your former field and tell them all the different (ways) they could benefit from you …. Contact former peers, subordinates, bosses. Contact industry associations …. Contact people via LinkedIn, or email, or phone, or coffee meetings. Set a target of reaching out to a certain number each day: even one piece of communication daily is better than none, but try for … ten. Don’t over-think! Ten bits of communication by 10.00 am daily!’
It is easy to think that one needs a whole day or large blocks of time for ‘big’ projects like contacting everyone. It is good to be reminded that interaction is an ongoing activity best pursued in small bites, daily.
Every time you meet someone new and swap business cards, write an email to maintain the contact. Some say you must do it within 24 hours, others say 48. Just do it.
I was told when I started that the most unlikely people will give you business and, often, the most likely will not. It has proved true for me and for many others I have spoken to, so plant the seed even in most unlikely places – and follow up unlikely leads.
3. ‘Make sure that you have … material’
A comedian’s material is probably a case full of one liners. For you and me it might be training material, a simple proposal or a unique product. Be ready to share it briefly and clearly, specifically explaining how it can help your prospects and their businesses.
The next article will contain Marks’s fourth suggestion and two more of my own.
Have you any advice to add? Share in the comments below.