Network Your Way to Catalog Success
I’ve always been pretty good at networking, but I have never been a big schmoozer — I’m kind of a straight-to-the-point person and not big on small talk.
I had the opportunity to hone my networking skills a few years back working for Under the Canopy, then a start-up apparel cataloger that sold fashion-forward clothing made of organic fibers. The CEO of the company is one of those natural-born brand evangelists who is amazing at networking, creating contacts, getting press for her company and having its products featured in magazines. I learned a lot from her in my time there.
Build Your Personal Brand Network
There are many ways to build your personal brand in this industry. Your career is as much about networking as actually getting the job done. It’s the old what you know vs. who you know thing; add as many new contacts who are influential in your industry to your address book as you can, since your future job growth depends on it.
The concept of increasing what I call your “NQ,” or Networking Quotient, has never been as important as it is now. The notion of a career-long position at the same company has morphed into an average employ of only a few years per position.
But networking surely has evolved.
In the past, I joined my local chapter of the DMA, went to its monthly meetings, attended the DMA and annual catalog conferences, and generally did all of the “traditional” types of networking. I built up a pretty decent network in the industry, and it helped my career greatly. But there always are more people to meet, learn from and grow from as a professional direct marketer. This is why the Internet has become the perfect networking vehicle.
While many people in our industry are in Chicago at the DMA conference this week, I’m sitting here in my home office in front of my computer, conducting an experiment to connect with as many influential contacts as possible.
I see this as a multiphase experiment, with step one being connecting with people. Since starting, I already have 98 connections to others, including people I work for and with, students of mine, vendor-partners, and even a few friends.
After step one, we’ll see how to manage my network so as to get the most out of it.
Next week, I’ll share with you the results of my experiment and provide you with a more in-depth review of the LinkedIn network. In the meantime, I encourage you to both try out the network and link to me. Once you are “in” the network, you can find vendors and employees, ask questions, and get answers on any business-related topic. You can recommend people and have people recommend you. These are personal testimonials, if you will. The network works on the concept of “six degrees of separation” — people you know and people they know make your potential networking opportunities grow exponentially.
What first struck me is that there were so many people I already knew on the network — business associates, people in the industry; I even reconnected with a friend of mine from when I was a teenager. And by browsing to see who my connections were connected to, I could network with many other people.
So I invite you to check out www.linkedin.com. I welcome your comments to add insight for the next part of the article series. Stay tuned for more on how I’m developing my network next week.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.