Inspiring Your Network to Help You
Now that you've identified your strategic sources - the members of your Network - how do you go about generating information, support and referrals from them? Some people use what might be called the "hope" strategy: they provide great products and service and then sit back and hope that referrals will come their way.
The good news is that passive strategies actually work. When they are pleased with your products or services, your customers tell others and should someone ask for a recommendation, your name is likely to be mentioned.
The better news is that you can improve your access to information, support and referrals by using a more active strategy. You may find this encouraging; if you're like most entrepreneurs, you'd rather do something to get things moving than sit around waiting for things to happen.
We describe eighteen tactics you can use to motivate your Network members. Some of these are direct; that is you specifically ask for business support or referrals. Others are indirect; they stimulate referrals and support as a result of your taking certain actions.
Offering your assistance on a Network member's project or assignment strengthens your co-operative bonds.
A prestigious or influential role in your business, whether formal or informal, short-term or long-term can mean authority and other benefits for a source. Offer a Network member the opportunity to serve on your board of directors or your advisory board, to make a presentation to an important group, to write an article for a key publication or to serve as a judge for acontest you are sponsoring.
The goal of this tactic is to persuade your Network members to participate in some form of research.
Playing the role of reporter is a good way of eliciting information and advice from a Network member - for example, by interviewing him for an article or while doing research on a subject he is familiar with.
5. Source Seeking
This tactic involves contacting your prospective sources to identify people they know who can help you achieve a particular goal. For example, you may ask a source to name someone who
~ can help you with a problem
~ can sell you something you want
~ owns something you want
~ knows someone in a certain area
~ has been somewhere you want to go.
6. Advice Seeking
The purpose of seeking advice is self-explanatory: you need advice and you ask a Network member for it.
This tactic involves giving your prospective sources valuable advice, related to your speciality or profession if possible, such as advance notice of a change in procedures, tips on how to initiate the change, or other information that can help your Network member achieve satisfaction or success.
Providing information about upcoming events and opportunities helps make and maintain contacts. The events can be of either business or personal interest, as long as the nature of the function appeals to your audience.
A good tactic for motivating a Network member is to let her/him know that you are in the market for her/his product or service.
One of the friendliest and most natural ways to make contact with a source is to buy his products or services, whether in large or small amounts. The purchase doesn't necessarily have to be from his primary line of business - perhaps a ticket to a fundraiser, a used car, a PC/Laptop, even a box of homemade cakes from his/her daughter.
Connecting is a tactic designed to help a Network member expand her network of business and personal friends and sources.
You can enhance your contact with a prospective source by inviting her/him to an event you are attending, hosting or participating in as a featured guest, panel speaker or award recipient.
By recognizing your sources for contributing to your business success, you help them both enhance their image and increase their visibility.
14. Horn Tooting/Trumpet Blowing
The idea behind tooting your own horn is to let your sources know about achievements you are proud of.
The collaborating tactic is used to express interest in establishing an informal partnership with a contact for your mutual benefit.
The purpose of sponsoring is to help your sources by providing financial and resource backing for projects or programs they are involved with.
This tactic is designed to get information, support and referrals by providing promotional support to your sources; to demonstrate to them how well you know them and trust them; and to help build relationships between them and other members of your Network. Because this is an indirect approach, there's no guarantee that you'll receive promotional support and referrals in return.
Auditing is a two-tiered tactic, its purpose is to obtain feedback and suggestions from clients and observers on their experience with your products and services. If the information you receive is positive, contact your sources again to solicit their involvement in some of your promotional activities or to request permission to use their feedback in your promotional campaign.
You now have the outlines of eighteen tactics that you can use to cause your Network members to want to provide you with information, support and referrals. Your decision on which to use and with which sources, depends on the situation, your personal and professional style and the results you expect to achieve.