An excerpt from The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, a new book from David Teten and Scott Allen on business relationships online. For more on this topic, see www.TheVirtualHandshake.com.
Online networks are the new power lunch tables and the new golf courses for business life in the U.S. In the past ten years, online dating has become mainstream; 40 million Americans use online dating sites. Now, businesspeople are starting to use the same family of technology to find business clients, new partners, and jobs, through virtual contacts they make online.
For example, Martin Schwimmer, a high-priced lawyer, gets at least 20% of his income from his blog. Schwimmer is an independent lawyer who represents owners of some of the most famous trademarks in the world. He was formerly a partner at Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu. Managing Intellectual Property magazine selected Schwimmer as one of the best trademark lawyers in the United States.
Schwimmer started his blog (SchwimmerLegal.com) in May 2002. He spends approximately 30 to 60 minutes per day maintaining it, primarily commenting on intellectual property news. He needs to keep apprised of the news just to do his job; the marginal cost of his time in maintaining the blog is low, because he is leveraging his preparation time.
His blog has created three networks for him:
1. Search engine users. For search terms like “trademark,” he is typically on the first page and the highest-ranked lawyer. Clients have approached him solely as a result of his very high search engine placement, which is created largely by the blog.
2. Fellow bloggers in his space. The blog keeps him in contact with other bloggers in his sector. Some referrals have come out of that.
3. Certain clients, colleagues, and practitioners have become regular readers, and the blog Strengthens his bond with them and increases his perceived Compentence.
In 2002, Schwimmer was an aberration. Today, professionals in any number of fields – attorneys, doctors, entrepreneurs, management consultants, technologists – are benefiting from creating a powerful personal presence on the Internet through blogs, social networking sites and other tools.
Virtual relationships can help you find a job, market your product or service, close deals, recruit talent, and identify and contact strategic partners. The virtual networks you join and the way in which you participate in them will vary according to your current objectives. Whatever those objectives may be, there are ten steps that we recommend everyone take to dramatically improve your personal network online:
1. Document your goals (Chapter 17). For each goal, write down how online networks can help you achieve it.
2. Analyze your network using the Seven Keys to a Powerful Network (Chapter 2):
3. Make the mundane sublime (Chapter 18). Master the basic office productivity tools. If you invest the energy to learn how to speed read, how to touch type, and how to use standard office productivity software comfortably, you will become far more productive.
4. Become an information sponge (Chapter 21). Install professional contact management software. Record emails, phone numbers, the notes you take in meetings, and everything else you can about the people you know. Add everyone you meet to your database.
5. Master your e-mail (Chapter 14). Install a sophisticated e-mail reader and spam filtering and antivirus software. Set up mail filter rules to route mail into appropriate folders. Turn off automatic send/receive. Organize your e-mail folders, and keep your inbox empty.
6. Share your knowledge wealth (Chapter 18). Maintain a master file of documents, resources, Web links, etc., which have been helpful to you. Document processes.
7. Write your Recyclable Document (Chapter 15). Save time by centralizing all of your recyclable emails and other text.
8. Take control of your virtual presence (Chapter 15). Make sure that when people look for you online…which they will…your image is both accurate and flattering.
9. Join the virtual communities where your target market lives, and keep your profile updated (Chapter 8). Once you have joined one group, ask the members where else they connect with like-minded people. Be sure to look for smaller groups within larger sites.
10. Take a leadership role (Chapter 17). Write a blog to cover your domain, and perhaps create a virtual community around your unique interests.
If The Virtual Handshake only convinces you to take these basic steps, we have succeeded in our own goal. You will significantly increase the value of your network, not to mention your efficiency and your productivity.
David Teten and Scott Allen are coauthors of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, the first mass-market book on how to use online networks to find your next business partner, next client, or next job. More technically, it is the first mass market guide to “social software”. Teten runs a detailed blog and resource site at TheVirtualHandshake.com, and is CEO of Nitron Advisors, which provides industry experts with the chance to consult with premier institutional investors. Allen is a consultant and industry analyst on building quality business relationships online, and the Entrepreneurs' Guide at About.com.
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