A Closer Look at What Networking Really Means

Back in October, I posted a brief video in which Dawn Lyons, Mike Macedonio and I discuss the new definition of networking (Click on the graphic below to view the video.).  Today, I’d like to provide much more detail and further clarification regarding this new definition.

Twenty years ago, I wrote a book called The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret. In it, I discussed several terms new to the business community, specifically about how they could help grow a business.  One term that seemed to have multiple meanings concerning business growth was “networking.” For some, networking was about compiling a huge database of names, usually by collecting business cards. Others saw networking as the opportunity to get in front of people and personally prospect for business. Still others perceived networking as nothing more than schmoozing and boozing, with no specific intention except to be seen and socialize.

So in an attempt to streamline the myriad of perceptions about the concept of networking, and based on my experiences in a variety of business and interpersonal situations, I concluded that networking was, in effect: “The process of developing and using your contacts to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve your community.”

This definition stood the test of time for many years, until. . . it didn’t.  Since then, I co-founded an organization called The Referral Institute with two partners, Mike Macedonio and Dawn Lyons. Based on our collective experiences in helping people across the U.S. and around the world build a system for getting referrals, we realized that the definition of networking needed to evolve. The new, updated meaning would reflect the changing times and business climate.  There were definitely some truths in the original definition that needed to be retained, but a few just no longer felt right.

One we wanted to address was “using.” Today, this sounds rather harsh, even cold. People today tend to find a negative resonance in the concept of “using” someone for personal or professional gain. The other word we scrutinized was “contacts.” The term has become synonymous with one’s database. And a database is, by design, impersonal, practical and, again, rather cold.  After many discussions about modifying the definition, we came up with what I feel is a much truer representation of the concept of networking:
“The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.”

The changes may seem small, but they are significant. When one “activates” relationships, it’s a much more dynamic, interactive, give-and-take type of engagement with others than simply “using” the relationships. Using is a one-way street, while activating is a major two-way highway. It’s just much more powerful, more true to who we are – or need to be – today, if we want to succeed at truly engaging with our relationships. People who network in this way show markedly better results than the “users.”

About the paradigm shift from “contacts” to “relationships:” For many years, I’ve talked about the “hunting versus farming” mentality when it comes to growing a professional network. The “hunters” run from one business event to another, grabbing and passing business cards with very little interaction past that, diligently add the card to their database (read: “contacts”). Then they run out again in search of more to add to the ever-growing list. The bigger the list, the better they’ve “hunted” and, in their often-misguided opinion, the better their “network.”

But let’s think of the farmers, the ones who cultivate steady, growing, genuine and authentic relationships with the people they feel are important to include in their network. They have a steady back-and-forth of interactions that benefits not only them. Everyone involved is rewarded. Why? Because the time taken to really get to know people enough to make a relationship means that when it comes time to make a referral, it’s much easier to call upon them.

By simply changing a couple of simple words in my original definition, we were able to fine-tune it into what we believe is the true meaning of effective networking. Our revised definition is much more congruent with the style of networking we teach every day, and what we know really works.

To be successful with business networking, you should understand that it is really about helping others as a way of growing your business. The people you help are more willing to help you or connect you to people they know. So in essence, networking is part of the process you go through to build a referral-based business. Through networking, you can deliver your positive message effectively. Referrals are the end result.

The NEW Definition of Networking

In this video, I’m joined by my partners in the Referral Institute®, Mike Macedonio and Dawn Lyons, and we discuss the definition of networking.  Twenty years ago, I wrote The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret and in it I gave my definition of the word “Networking.”  Times have changed since then, however, and Dawn came to me with two suggestions that give “Networking” a new, updated meaning.

Based on Dawn’s suggestions which we discuss in detail in the video, the NEW definition of Networking is:

“The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence, or serve the community.”

After watching the video, let us know your thoughts on the definition of networking.  Do you have a different definition, or any feedback on what may be missing from the new definition of networking that we’ve provided here?  We’d love to hear from you so please leave your comments in the comment forum below. Thanks!

Only Focusing on ONE Referral Source Equals Missed Opportunity!

In this video, Cheryl Hansen, a Trainer and Franchisee with the Referral Institute, explains that most people tend to focus only on existing clients as their main source for business referrals and they neglect the seven other referral sources which they could be developing simultaneously to generate unlimited opportunity for new referred business!

Cheryl highlights community service organizations and casual contacts as just a couple of commonly untapped referral sources and urges businesspeople to start developing all eight of the referral sources which are outlined in the book The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret and listed below . . . which of them are you going to make a commitment this week to start developing?  Leave a comment and let us know . . .

The Eight Referral Sources:

  1. People in Your Contact Sphere
  2. Satisfied Clients
  3. People Whose Business Benefits from Yours
  4. Others with Whom You Do Business
  5. Staff Members
  6. People to Whom You’ve Given Referrals
  7. Anyone Who Has Given You Referrals
  8. Other Members of Business Referral Groups

If you’d like a more specific description of any of the eight referral sources, simply leave a request in the comments section–I’m more than happy to write a blog with further details regarding any/all of the above sources.

The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret–4th Edition

The first edition of my book The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, which details how to build business by referral, was released back in 1994 and went on to become an international bestseller.  I am excited to announce that the 4th edition of the book was just published and my co-author Mike Macedonio and I have substantially rewritten the book and added a significant amount of information.

Here is just a brief sample of what is outlined in the new book:

  • The best way to grow your business
  • Referrals and referral marketing, networking, word of mouth, buzz, and viral marketing
  • Networking vs. direct prospecting
  • Communicating your brand
  • Making your network stronger
  • Fifteen ways to promote
  • Forecasting sales from referrals
  • Tracking and evaluating results
  • And much, much more . . .

If you’ve read any of the other editions of The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, I invite you to leave a comment here letting me know what some of your top takeaways from the book were; and, of course, if you’ve had the opportunity to read an advance copy of the 4th edition of the book, I would absolutely love it if you would leave a comment about what you think of it!

The new 4th edition is not yet available on Amazon but you can get an advance copy of the book now by CLICKING HERE.

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