Business Networking is as old as business, which in turn is as old as the human sentient state. What are the underlying, unchanging precepts of networking in a competitive, goods and services oriented arena? Understanding these principles can put us in a powerful position in the business world if we understand, practice, and apply them.
One of the elemental issues revolving around active business networking is the competitor, non-competitor matrix. Simple strategies of networking can only involve non-competitive interests. If you are networking with your direct competitor, you will tend to be very protective, and this inhibits the flow of benevolence back and forth, thus throwing cold water on networking activity as a result.
More advanced and sophisticated networking strategies however, can and do engage fierce competitors into deep cooperation. This is a huge advantage if you can achieve it, because your competitors market is also yours. Again though, there has to be some pretty advanced tactics in order to gain that position. We’ll come back to this issue with more insight after we establish a few more important fundamentals.
The next matter involves forums. Forums are simply the venue in which your network can operate. There are meeting style networks that meet once per week for breakfast, or once per month for coffee. These companies are employing the “Meeting Forum”, and it is great for some types of exchange. There is also the telephone forum. Sometimes, local service providers use the phone extensively. Maybe there is a roofing company, a painter, a window cleaner, and a landscaper in a localized network. These companies are not competitors, so they feel free to share leads with each other. The telephone is a great forum for this kind of network exchange.
In the last few decades however, the most intensive networking forum has been developing more and ever more intensity. This, of course, is the internet. (net in internet is a reference, after all, to network). The internet is a forum that can be geographically far flung or localized. It can handle nearly every kind of business exchange from communication, to information, to monetization, to what ever else we can devise to help us relate to another entity.
This is not to say that the other forums for networking are things of the past. The face to face, voice to voice, personal touch is a very valuable factor that the internet does not do well, although there is video conferencing capability that is becoming ever more fluent. Even so, a mixed forum approach to business networking is a sign of good health and a fundamental factor in success.
A non-competitor may be synergistic with your company typographically. In that case, the active market of that company is likely to interest you. On the other hand, if the networking prospect is not in proximity to you typographically, then there would be less potential benefit in business network exchange. This is where the concept of network to network association becomes viable. A business to business relationship is more delicate than is network to network, and value could be gained from that more involved approach.
A final though is about expansive interests and localized interests. There are local networks, regional, national, and global. Some regional companies want to expand to national reach, and some global companies want to be able to drill down into targeted localities. As we begin to transcend the limitations of our own immediate interests, we can see more clearly the coalescence of higher cognitive manipulation of accumulated networks.
Reflecting back on the trail of principle we’ve left behind in this article, we can begin to imagine how the engineers of the global economy are type categorizing not just entities, but actual networks too. Networking has indeed reach the age of true power through internet categorization, traffic, messaging, and virtual real estate.