By the time I finished my meeting and dropped in to see him he said, “Oh, I thought you forgot about me.” An hour later I walked out of his business and thought, here is a young man who deserves an honorary MBA. I would rather spend an hour with him than most of the MBAs I worked with when I was in the corporate world. Those “suits” of my past life were the most robotic thinkers I have seen. This young man was full of energy, ideas and knowledge about the future of business.
I asked him if I could come back tomorrow to wrap things up. He apologized and said that tomorrow would not work because he had a plan. He had to get his hair cut, put on his better clothes and he was on a mission. A mission to build his network. Nothing was going to stop him from his plan for the next day.
But he already had a strong network. With a facebook page that would make most businesses weep, and a network of friends talking up his business and a referral list of some of the most influential people in the area he needed more links in his chain?
So he sent me on a mission. “When you come back I need 3 to 5 businesses that want to network with me on my marketing plan,” he said.
A day later I stopped in at a new unique restaurant to see if I could set up an appointment to talk with them about their marketing plan. The owner and chef said, “You got me out of the kitchen that is better than most people do, so you have 5 minutes.” An hour later I walked out of his restaurant with an assignment. Find me some businesses that want to network with me on my marketing plan.
Lone Rangers rarely survive. I don’t have to worry about them reading this, so I am going to tell you about a little math problem that I am doing. There is some mathematical formula between the links in a business’ network and the length of time before it sinks.
Let me tell you my hypothesis. If you have zero links to your business then the chances of you sinking in this economy is far greater than if you have many links to other businesses.
Here is the practical way I play this game. During a visit with a business owner or their marketing director I try to find out how long their chain is. The lone ranger type is the easiest to spot. They don’t want to link up with any other business because they believe that you are only as strong as the weakest link. That old adage does not apply to the internet age. You weakest link may be your most helpful asset. So the lone ranger business has a very likely chance of sinking. I don’t bother going back to that business because more than likely their doors will be closed within the next year.
The business that has multiple links in its network is very easy to spot. They start telling me about the other businesses. My mother told me that you are known by the company you keep. In this piece of advice she was correct. When I hear that a business is tightly linked I give its chances of success a very high rating.
The first business owner I talked to has a service business that is so common we could not think of all of his competitors in the area. There were too many to count. And, who needs another restaurant? Restaurants are tripping over themselves trying to get their seats filled. But I still give these businesses a great chance of succeeding because they are linked and building a longer chain.
Need more convincing about linking? Go to a site such as http://www.sermo.com/ where physicians are discussing case histories on-line. The next time you have to go under the knife ask your doctor, who has been out of medical school for years, how he/she finds out about the latest case studies? Before he/she operates on you, you know that if your doctor is strongly linked there is less of a chance that you will sink.
At bliplakenorman.com we are linking businesses. Our back office allows businesses to link together with their customers and be in continuous touch. The day of having a website only and thinking that is all you need is over. Linking with your customers is key.
One of the projects we are contemplating is setting up a stronger link between our blip businesses. I would love to get feedback ideas from creative businesses about the way we can help find other businesses that want to link together and do it – not just talk about it. If you want to talk about it go get one of the “suits” – those MBA guys who like to talk.
Here is one idea. Put a link in our back office where businesses can barter with each other to do promotions together, share coupons, cross promote (not cross dress) etc. One new customer is going to give away something free from another service business to its customers. Another business is giving me gift cards worth $35.oo to any business owner I think could use their service.
First I want to know about your links. Then you can begin to tell me about your great product or service. If you are well linked I probably will have already heard about you online or from another business person. LINK OR SINK. It is up to you.
If you have ideas email me at email@example.com.