Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Mack Collier – Social Media Consultant

Mack is a Social-Media Consultant, helping companies big and small navigate the often confusing world of communicating with and understanding their customers. His marketing blog, The Viral Garden, is ranked in the Top 4,000 out of 75,000,000 blogs according to blog-tracking company Technorati. He has also written several popular articles for Marketing Profs., and is a regular contributor to the company’s Daily Fix weblog.

He also produces the marketing podcast Mind The Gap, which examines how companies can empower their communities of customers to market for them. Mack additionally has over 10 years experience working with some of the Southeast’s largest retailers, helping them solve their online and offline marketing and production problems, as well as both a BBA and MBA in Marketing.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Mack Collier: I’m actually not a fan of the term ‘networking’ because I believe to many people it means collecting business cards and making of list of ‘what can you do for me?’ contacts.

I prefer to attempt to develop actual relationships with the people I come in contact, and instead attempt to find ways that I can help them personally, or professionally. If they can help put me in contact with a future business partner/client, that’s just a bonus.

As for why it’s important, I think that if we as marketers talk about how companies need to embrace their communities of customers, that we have to extend that philosophy to our own business practices.

We have to develop relationships with our contacts, so that we can learn from and help each other. That way when someone contacts me asking if I know anyone that might be interested in a position with Company X, I don’t have to shuffle through a list of contacts, I can immediately recommend Jim, because I know from talking to him that he has the exact experience the company needs.

Josh: Can you share one or two ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Mack Collier: Might be preaching to the choir, but start a blog. Doing so enables you to actually get to know the people that come to your blog and comment. You begin to know them as people, and develop relationships with them.

The standard networking mentality of ‘hey I need to stay in contact with Terry, because he might be able to help me later on’, becomes ‘I really like Terry and need to talk to Kevin because I think he would be perfect for the marketing position he needs to fill’. Blogging is networking on steroids, at least it has been for me.

Josh: Can you share some of the ways you use the internet for business networking?

Mack Collier: See above. And with online, people are wanting and expecting more than simply collecting contact info. This is a big reason why I rarely use LinkedIn, because I don’t want to see somone’s contact info and what they have accomplished, I want to TALK to them. I want to exchange emails, comment on their blogs, I want to get to know them. I want them to get to know me.

People are more comfortable with the people they know. If someone asks you if you know someone for a position they need to fill, are you more likely to suggest the guy who handed you a business card at last month’s conference, or the blogger that you’ve gotten to know over the last few months of swapping emails/phone calls/comments?