Marketing strategies that really work
Many people feel uncomfortable about the word networking, or undertaking networking activity. We often hear from executives we coach who express reservations about networking as being pushy, looking needy or coming across as insincere. So we prefer to describe networking activities as marketing. Marketing is about intelligence gathering and exploration, it is not selling.
The additional benefit of intelligence gathering is that it helps make you visible. Making yourself visible to the right people at the right time is an essential business activity whether you are in the job market and trying to access the “hidden” job market, or simply wishing to develop and retain a professional profile.
Over the years we have worked with many individuals who have embarked on a range of marketing activities, so we have seen what works and what is less successful.
We have also observed which marketing (or networking) groups are more useful than others. Here are some tips we would like to share with you specifically about which groups are most effective based on feedback from our successful candidates.
The Rise of the Professional Service Firms in Executive Search
Many recruiters and search firms are struggling. They no longer hold the commanding position in the market for good talent that they once had. One of the “threats” to traditional search firms is the professional service networks where chartered accounting or law firms, who have developed a solid and trusting relationship with their clients are approached when these clients are looking for good quality candidates. This approach often occurs before a real vacancy arises – perhaps at the stage where the client is dissatisfied with the performance of an executive, or wishes to move in a different direction with a different skill set. Individuals we have worked with who have strong links with partners of professional services firms often get a look in for these roles before the broader market is aware of a potential vacancy.
Selective Choice of Executive Search Firms
Not all search firms are the same. It is a good strategy to develop close links with a small number of quality search consultants. Seek out search consultants who:
- understand your background, skill sets, and capabilities,
- have a good grasp of where market opportunities exist, and have links in to organisations or industries you are pitching to,
- will give you frank and fearless feedback about your strengths and vulnerabilities, gaps in experience and positioning in the market,
- you can trust with your confidential résumé, knowing it will not be sent out to organisations without your approval,
- are prepared to advocate on your behalf.
Reputable Networking Groups
Networking is as much about giving as receiving. There are many reputable networking groups with which you can become associated. The cardinal rule is to give first and then you will receive. Attending events is important for making yourself visible. Participating in discussions also develops self-confidence. We have also observed that individuals who are active in networking groups, and participate in social media commentary successfully raise their profile in their chosen markets and industries. They are more likely to be front of mind when an opportunity arises. Whilst we do not believe in endorsing specific groups, examples of groups that many individuals find it useful to connect with are:
- The Australian Institute of Management (AIM)
- The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD)
- A range of LinkedIn groups – search on the LinkedIn website for groups that share a common background or interest
- For women in the finance sector, consider joining the Women in Finance group
- For executive women, consider joining the Executive Women Australia LinkedIn Group
- The Melbourne Forum, a spin-off from the Athenaeum Club in Melbourne, provides regular interesting networking evenings. The joining fee is modest compared to the opportunities to hear from eminent speakers and network with senior Melbourne business leaders
- The American Chamber of Commerce is also a useful group a more significant financial investment but it holds a lot of events and is open to non-members
- The CEO Profit Optimisation Association may also be worthwhile. Recently a colleague reported back that attending this forum improved her self-confidence in being able to hold her own with CEOs.
While many of these forums require you to pay an annual membership subscription, most of these groups also open their events to anyone, at a slightly higher door fee.
Create Your Own Networking Group
You can initiate and maintain a small but regular get-together of some people who are broad peers, but have different positions, perspectives and connections to yours. You can meet together over lunch or breakfast, taking it in turns to provide a venue, and put a little pressure on yourselves around using the group to grow professionally. A useful way to structure these get together is for one person is to speak about a recent success or a troubling issue and the group comment and contribute.
Follow up at least one person who attends one of these get-togethers to arrange a separate one-on-one discussion. You can seek to help that person on an issue he or she has raised and/or you can seek some wise counsel from the other person on an issue you have raised in the get-together (as a logical follow-on from the get-together)
As you read, and meet others, remember to find ways to invest in your networking relationships, passing on intelligence as appropriate. In our experience many individuals have found this approach more useful, as a supplement to attending industry functions.
Also, this approach again reinforces the rule of giving to others before you expect to get something back in return.
Ultimately the choice is yours – use those forums and marketing opportunities that resonate with you, that are authentic to your style and most of all that you enjoy!