Direct Marketing Article
Networking as Your Sole Marketing Vehicle
By Jeff Beals
As people realize we like them and respect their opinions, they share
information about themselves that can be helpful in analyzing whether they
can use our products or services.
So says Canadian businessman Michael J. Hughes, who is known as "THE
Networking Guru." Hughes runs a highly successful Ottawa, Ontario-based
consulting business that works with Fortune 500 companies and international
associations across North America. The most interesting thing about Hughes'
business? He built it using networking as his sole marketing vehicle.
Networking is simply one of the most important activities in which
professionals engage. As Hughes says, the opportunity to create, nurture and
develop relationships is one of the most rewarding processes of human
activity. If we capitalize on networking opportunities properly, they can be
quite profitable for us while making the world a better place for everyone
The problem with networking is that too many professionals don't do it very
well. What's worse is that some people are terribly intimidated by the
That's where Hughes comes in. He breaks networking encounters into six
logical steps. To succeed in networking, you need to master all parts of the
1. The first five seconds
2. The next 20 seconds
3. The next two minutes
4. The last five seconds
5. The next 24 hours to seven days
6. The final outcome
At the beginning of the networking encounter, Hughes believes the key is to
make your discussion partner comfortable. After all, most people are
stressed by networking events. You will make a great impression if you take
charge, smile, listen carefully and "pretend you're the host."
In the next 20 seconds, the key is to build rapport and make your networking
partner feel "safe." Active listening is crucial, because "wanting to know
more about a person is one of the biggest compliments we can pay," Hughes
The most important part of the networking process occurs in the next two
minutes. Hughes says this is where the real test occurs for both partners.
The more you structure the discussion around your partner, the more earnest
interest you show in him or her, the more you develop trust.
Once you have trust, your discussion partner is open to your ideas. This is
when you present your message, your unique selling point. But don't get
preachy, because as Hughes says, "the objective of networking is to create a
relationship, not make a presentation." The value comes over time.
Trust is especially important if the purpose of your networking efforts is
ultimately to make a sale and land a deal. "Selling is a people business,
not a product business," Hughes says. "People don't care how much you know
until they know how much you care."
When the networking encounter is coming to an end, Hughes recommends you
take control in order to transition out of the conversation and help the
person bridge to another conversation. In the last five seconds, try to
create an opportunity. An offer to keep in touch or a scheduled appointment
makes the conversation much more productive.
Finally, be sure to thank the other person for conversing with you and for
giving you their precious time.
Lest you think you are done, remember that networking is a process. Follow
up with the person or you will eventually be forgotten. That kind of defeats
the purpose, doesn't it? Find a legitimate reason - one that benefits the
other person - to stay in contact. Not only does follow-up keep you
front-of-mind, it makes an impression in other ways. After all, "following
through on commitments and promises goes against the grain of how the world
works today," Hughes says. In other words, you will shock people if you're
one of those rare professionals who actually returns email and voice mail
When it's all said and done, good networking can lead to career-long
relationships. This means you might take care of clients together, create
referral opportunities and find complementary products. Gaining exposure to
others' networks will increase your opportunities.
About the Author:
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more
business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales,
marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he
delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences
worldwide. You can learn more and follow his "Business Motivation Blog" at