i’m here — hope you are too

If you’re reading this in your rss feed reader, then you’ve made it with me to the new blog.

As I said in the last blogspot post, I should have done this a long time ago and really should have done it from the start. I always hesitated doing it because I feared I would lose some readers and all those inbound links from over the years. And I have lost those links and I’m sure some people will get left behind, but this needed to be done. I’m hopeful that 2009 will be a big year because of a project that I’m working on that will launch late summer/early fall (see www.brandzeitgeist.com for details)

You shouldn’t build a house on land that you don’t own. A blog on a free platform presents the same problem. What if blogger/google pulled the rug out tomorrow? The blog issue is easy to solve like I just have — but think about all the people building their online brand equity in places like twitter, linked in, facebook, and a hundred other places online. Is your entire online brand resting on something that could be gone tomorrow?

Anyway, the process of the switch was easier and quicker than I thought it would. Toughest part was that I had to manually transfer several of my old comments (pre-2006) when I was using Haloscan comments instead the Blogger commenting.

All the posts made it except one from two years ago that came over as a draft for some reason. All the comments came except 3. I have no idea what 3 they were. I hope they weren’t profound observations.

And all the old labels/tags came over as categories. It will be a joy to clean those up.

Thanks for coming along to the new digs.

artificial networks

Both online and offline, there’s been a surge in the concept of “networks” as a marketing tool. And websites and groups have sprung up to capitalize on the phenomenon. As people clamor to build their personal networks for business, they need to be careful. I’m seeing many people waste lots of time and energy into false networks that may not net any gain.

Don’t get me wrong. Your personal network is one of the strongest marketing tools you have — especially if you’re in a B2B field. And it also works to your advantage in a B2C field causing word-of-mouth trickle down.

But the network and the relationships have to be real in order to be effective. Many of these new groups and websites develop artificial networks. It’s like most other things. People are always looking for the quick and easy way to get rich, lose weight, or win market share. And all those things take time. Developing a network of relationships is no different.

There’s a fairly new phenomenon of “speed networking”. These events should be called “speed business card exchanges” because that’s all they really are. You’re into self delusion if you think you’re coming out of one of these events with 50 meaningful business relationships. Obviously, you can use the contact info from those quick meetings to develop a relationship later with a few of the people you met. But it will still take time to develop those.

I know several people who are involved locally in a national business networking organization. And it seems that every one of them has drunk the Kool-Aid (or more accurately the Flavor-Aid) I’ve been invited to a few of the meetings and each time it felt like I was getting involved in some sort of scheme. Fostering that sort of feeling is not the best way to develop relationships.

Clearly with weekly meetings, there’s time to develop relationships. But the problem with these types of groups is that the relationships are forced and sometimes unnecessary. How can the “stock broker” and the “carpet cleaner” in the group really have a meaningful business relationship? Have you ever had this conversation?

“So you advise that I put 50% into mutual funds and 50% into bonds? OK. Now, where do you suggest I get my carpet cleaned?”

Both the stock broker and the carpet cleaner would be better off spending their time developing real relationships with other businesspeople that have customers with adjacent needs.

And then the internet makes everything easy. I see people who have hundreds of contacts on Linked In or Facebook and wonder if they feel their network is actually that deep/wide. Accepting a friend or contact on one of these sites is not equivalent to developing a relationship with them. It is a great way to manage and stay in contact with relationships you’ve already developed.

But you can grow your network online. I consider some people that I’ve never met “face-to-face” as some of my closest business allies because of the relationship we’ve had online.

Here’s the kicker. Relationships and networks are built with two things: time and trust. True networking relationships come from actually having a relationship with someone.

Like with most marketing activities, just doing something doesn’t mean that you’re making any progress. Spend time and energy developing your network. Just make sure it’s real.

And of course, the best place to network is a funeral.