How Network Marketing Is Transforming Business
Some elements of success are universal. It could easily be said, that one’s net worth is directly related to their network. No longer is it only the CEO’s, VP’s of Sales, and quota-meeting, territory-managing salespeople who must understand the value of networking. Today, everyone is their own brand, and their own business, even if they work for a large corporation. To that end, the need for consistent and engaged networking by each of us is no longer an option.
Social networking and mobile-device connectedness have blurred, if not entirely removed, the lines that once separated our personal and professional lives. Not only should organizations look to employees to contribute to the overall corporate personality, they must recognize that each individual brings with them a unique personal network of potential clients, connections, and collaborators. This burgeoning landscape of social networking, the blurred lines between personal and professional networks beg the question: Isn’t it time to redefine Customer Relationship Management?
Out with the Old
As the co-inventor of ACT!, the product credited as the catalyst for the Customer Relationship Management industry, I’m surprisingly not a champion of the concept of “managing relationships” at all. I don’t think entering data, scheduling activities, or even communicating with someone amounts to “management” in any meaningful way. Even if the concept of managing customer relationships was the premise for the industry, the actual result is really a tool for Management to oversee an employee’s activity, communication, and progress with their customers and prospects, not the employee’s tool for building or maintaining meaningful relationships.
According to a study by Gartner, the leading Information Technology research firm, (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2004216) only 50% of Fortune-1000 companies using CRM systems reap a significant return on their investment. Hence, it’s time for a new perspective! I wholeheartedly believe that meaningful relationships lead to success in business—in our personal lives, too, but that’s a subject for a separate article. Without meaningful relationships, our chance of success wanes, perhaps to the point of nonexistence.
In with the New
If you can’t manage others to achieve success, how do you get there? By managing yourself! This new perspective requires a very slight shift, from Customer Relationship Management to Customer Reputation Management. You can manage the ways in which you build and maintain the perception of your reputation with customers and prospects. When you demonstrate professionalism, concern, and commitment to helping others succeed, trust is the result. Trust that the other person is important enough to you to record the details you learn about them. Trust that you will do what you say that you will do. Trust that may even earn you that all-coveted referral.
You may not be able to manage another person simply by entering information in an application. However, if you use those tools to remember the details others forget, you’ll stand apart from your competitors who may or may not offer a better product or service. With each interaction, you can prove that all things being equal, your reputation is the deciding factor. The quality of your reputation, good or bad, will be reflected in your success. Looking at it from that perspective intensifies the reasons to use relationship management and organizational tools. After all, who doesn’t want to put their best foot forward? Especially when it impacts your bottom-line! CRM systems can only help you to manage contacts, calendars, and communications, but when you do so with diligence and professionalism, the natural result is a good reputation.
When Worlds Collide
Managing the connections within one’s personal and professional networks comes down to understanding the value of “social capital.” Putting time and effort into maintaining strong relationships creates something with long-term value. Among those who study social networks that value is called “social capital.” To define it more precisely, social capital is the value that individuals get from and deliver to the network. That social capital can result in wins for an individual’s employer in the short-term, as well as long-term for the individual in terms of new business opportunities, much less future opportunities for potential career advancement. The businessperson providing resources to colleagues, getting to know them as people, and helping them solve problems is creating social capital, as is the political leader who forges personal connections and builds trust with leaders of other countries. They are creating a valuable asset on which they can draw later, when they are the ones in need of resources or support. The real and meaningful value of any network whether personal or business is that it contains, and adheres to, deriving mutual benefit. Your contribution to it is to manage yourself within it to strengthen your aforementioned reputation and regard.
A Brave New World
Business-to-Business is dead. It’s now a P2P, or People-to-People world. In today’s world of hyper-connectedness, we must be all the more diligent to build and nurture the network of relationships necessary to succeed in a very competitive marketplace. The rise in popularity of social networking doesn’t negate the necessity of developing, maintaining, and deepening meaningful relationships. Each individual represents an entire network of personal and professional resources. Not only allowing but encouraging people to manage those network connections is a long-term investment—an investment in the individual that can result in company-wide wins of new contracts, new business, even new talent.
Overall, your strong networks provide an excellent source of sustainable business, and your success in business enables the equally important personal side of your life and its networks.
Mike Muhney (@MikeMuhney) is a recognized expert in the field of relationship management. He is the co-inventor of ACT!, the software product credited as the catalyst of the entire Customer Relationship Management industry. Today, he is the CEO and co-founder of VIPorbit Software, creators of Vipor CRM apps for iPhone, iPad and Mac.