The quality and quantity of our professional relationships are directly correlated with our success, especially given today’s sharing economy.
We are growing a community of marketing service providers, a virtual network of subject matter experts with complementary skill sets who collaborate in interesting ways for their mutual benefit. I believe this community, built on a slick tech platform and Uber-like app, is hyper-relevant as the tectonic plates beneath the marketing services world – particularly the ad agency world – are shifting so dramatically that marketing practitioners are struggling to find solid ground upon which to build their businesses.
However, one of the biggest obstacles impeding the growth of our community is agency owners who claim,
I already have a preferred network of freelancers that I can call upon. I don’t need any more talent to help grow my business.
Comments like that baffle me. How can anyone have all the talent they could ever possibly need?
The irony of this whole frustrating scenario is that I know agency principles subscribe to the idea of accessing deeper talent pools. Their own businesses are dependent upon servicing clients who lack sufficient access to expertise, therefore they willingly outsource. But, while every marketing service firm advocates others source capable 3rd party providers, few have yet to perfect the practice themselves.
Network = Networth
Here are four reasons why everyone should constantly be growing their professional networks and never be content with the partners they already have:
Stock your network with the best
The smartest, most proficient, and most dynamic professionals do not work for you, nor do they exist in your contacts list. You may have an excellent network, and I’m sure you’ve grown very comfortable with them, but there are even better people out there. Why deny your clients access to the best and brightest minds in the industry, and force them to look elsewhere? Creating new connections that can add value to your business is tough and time-consuming, but it is worth it! Many of us have experienced the joy of finding talent so exceptional they literally changed how we do business. That shouldn’t be a rare thing. Great talent is all around us. The minute we get complacent or comfortable, our progress stalls. Good truly is the enemy of great, and we should be constantly looking to surround ourselves with great people. New ones pop up all the time and persons who used to be great lose their edge. Talent management is just that – talent that needs to be managed. As professional service providers, talent is your product. Constantly look for upgrades.
Build a network of specalists
The marketing services world is complex, and the complexity is getting worse. We have moved into a ‘long tail’ existence where dozens of niche tasks, requiring niche expertise, is required. Being a “generalist”, or calling your agency “full service”, is synonymous with, “I’m not very good at anything”. Clients are demanding specialized skills and are willing to pay handsomely for them. That means there is financial incentive to have access to a host of skill sets that are available at a moment’s notice. It is unlikely you’ll have sufficient work with anyone skillset to hire a full-time team, but by joining a community of complementary marketing service professionals, you can call upon them and benefit from their craft on a contingent worker basis.
A Network that Gives and Gets
While most agencies have a Rolodex of on-demand freelancers, their talent pool is usually comprised of takers, not givers. The relationships are one-sided. You bring the meat to the table, and they carve it up and eat it. The best communities are mutually beneficial – meaning members give, and get, work from each other. We’ve built a platform that assists with talent management AND business development. That’s an especially desirable 1-2 punch for small agencies who spend way too many non-billable hours responding to RFP’s or chasing down new clients.
Exploit Your Network Access as an Asset
Clients hire you because of your narrow positioning that is validated through persuasive proof points. Once hired, your ability to retain and grow clients is largely associated with your access to experts who can broaden your appeal. Assume building e-commerce sites is your core competency. Once the site is built, you’re left trying to win another e-commerce project for someone else. But over the course of the existing engagement, you built client trust. You learned their business, and more importantly, demonstrated you can excel within their culture. You’d be a fool to dismiss that capability, and you’re actually doing your clients a disservice by not offering to help with other things related to the website you built. Your client will need fully integrated digital solutions – SEM/SEO, email, social, mobile, in-store, they will also need ongoing analytics and optimization strategies. All those can be delivered through your firm – with desirable margin attached – if you ably utilize hyper-qualified 3rd parties.
As the saying goes, “who you know is as important as what you know”. You can never have too much knowledge, and you can never have too many connections in your professional network.
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