Friday, February 12, 2010

Networking with a niche

I have just received a question on Twitter from Theresa Summers. Theresa said, "I am doing increasingly niche things so don't know what I can get out of networking these days."

Interestingly, at a meeting I attended yesterday we were talking about the importance of having a niche when marketing yourself in the present climate. Theresa is arguably in a better position to network with a clearly defined niche. There are a number of reasons for this:

1 - It's easier for you to understand what your objectives from networking are
Who do you want to meet? Where do those people congregrate or which groups of people will be able to provide you with introductions to the right people? If you are looking to develop your expertise, who do you need to surround yourself with?

If you generalise or sell to a wide range of customers it can be hard to focus your networking activity in the most effective way. If you specialise the appropriate networks stand out from the crowd.

2 - People in your network find it easier to pigeon-hole you
Sometimes it's good to be pigeon-holed. One of the things I often talk about with networking is that it's not what you know or who you know, it's who knows you and what they say about you that makes a difference. If people in your network understand easily what you do for whom, they are more likely to mention you in the appropriate circumstances. 

Since Theresa moved more into e-learning (and I hope I've got your niche correct) she is the person I think of when the subject of e-learning comes up. That can lead to opportunities, as it did earlier this week when I put Theresa forward for a presentation. 

3. It's easy for you to ask for specific referrals and to communicate a clear message
With a  clear niche you will find it easier to ask people in your network for specific introductions and explain how you can help the prospect you have in mind. If you try to be all things to all people, it's tougher to communicate a clear and simple message. After all, the more you give people to remember, the more they have to forget. 

4. You can become known as the expert in your field
I've been the recipient of some fantastic introductions and press describing me as a leading expert in my field. I always appreciate that description and hope I do enough to merit it, but I'm sure it helps that there are fewer practitioners of networking than, for example, marketing. If you focus on a niche you can stand out from the crowd and build a reputation within that niche, that will encourage the right people to want to talk to you. 

So far from making networking a less attractive activity, defining a niche and concentrating on it can make your networking far more effective.

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