This is a reposting of my Guest Column for The Toronto Business Times from May 2, 2012.
Un-Marketing (with more than 120,000 followers on Twitter and 7,000 on Facebook) in his book called, yes, UnMarketing. Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.
I'm not ashamed to say a book that turns the concept of marketing on its head has changed the way I run my business.
Getting audiences to engage with brands and convert on specific objectives is my reason for being in the nine-to-whatever (or unreasonable facsimile of what passes for a workday these days) world.
Ultimately that means I build relationships. In fact, I'm often so busy building relationships for my clients that I find little time left to build and maintain any of my own.
So, how do small business owners and consultants maintain a healthy relationship with their network? Sometimes, in practice, we don't, it's true, but in theory...
1. Keep social networking profiles current
People are connecting with us all the time, and we don't even know it. It's important to ensure we're communicating the right information.
The main players in social networking for business are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and there's no quick fix or easy way to update all three at the same time. I have weekly, monthly and quarterly reminders in my calendar to ensure that everything I would ever want somebody to know is readily available on my social networks. It's possible I might miss a weekly update, but monthly and quarterly reminders make sure the gaps don't get too big.
2. Don't be shy
Connect, like and follow. This is how it works, right? Someone "likes" or "follows" us, generally we like or follow them back. Not always, and often depending on who they are, but generally we'll reciprocate the action.
You need to set aside 30 minutes every week (at a minimum, and for each social network) to proactively identify people to connect with, like or follow.
3. Practice Inbox Zero
The biggest time suck in my life is email. Managing subscriptions, notifications, personal and, of course, work correspondence can be overwhelming. The problem? An out-of-hand inbox hides a lot of networking opportunities. When I learned about Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero, email overload didn't go away, but implementing the process (Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, Do) ensures that we slowly but surely address all communication points and clean house at the same time.
A clean inbox makes each touch point that much easier to address and (eventually) frees up more time to focus on those other networking opportunities.
Ultimately, what's the single most important thing to remember when it comes to networking? Do it. Even if you feel you don't have the time.
"You need to return this book if you say, 'I don't have time to build relationships online!' and yet will drive 45 minutes to a networking event, stay three hours, and drive 45 minutes back home," Stratten says in UnMarketing.
What's important to you and how are you going to grow your business? What's the ROI on your networking activities? Figure it out.