for Valentine’s Day: Business Dating

February 13, 2009

Dating isn’t just for lovers. It’s for business too. In my job and in the Professional Services industry, dating is essentially what we do on a daily basis. It’s Business Dating. We seek out prospective clients, we get to know them, and hopefully we engage with them to provide our expertise. OK, not exactly like dating, but you get the picture.

Our world used to be full of large Networking events. It seemed every company put one on in their local territory, and larger companies threw lavish 3-day long events that often meant an airplane trip and hotel stay. But much like the rage of Internet Dating in certain years, Business Dating is now all the rage. It has come on so quickly, in relative terms, that any company who is not already engaged in Business Dating over the Internet needs to ask themselves, why not?

What is Business Dating? It is the incorporation of the tools and communication power that Social and Business Networking sites provide to everyone, whether it’s to make new friends, meet new prospective clients, find someone to hire, or in turn, find someone to hire you. In today’s challenging economic climate, there is a huge increase in companies exploring Social Networking strategies to increase revenue, or at least opportunities for revenue. I personally have successfully used LinkedIn and FaceBook to both secure warm introductions from colleagues to prospective clients, and also to reach out to new pools of top technical talent eager for the next opportunity.

To invest in Business Dating means to invest a lot of time, just as with traditional networking, sometimes more. It’s not as easy as logging on to a dating website, picking a couple of attractive people and sending off a brief, clever note to introduce yourself. But it’s not that far away either. Like searching through countless profiles of possible mates, for Business Dating you have to spend a great deal of time mining existing contacts, and researching out names of people you want to be introduced to, and then the people in your network who can make that connection. The work is worth it, and unlike the seedy bar where you spend $10 on a watered-down drink and pick up the guy or girl you can’t bring home to your folks, most of the tools on these networking sites are free.

However, just like the seedy bar, or the conversation with the girl you met through that leads to a first date, you still have to ask a friend or colleague for that introduction, and that, for some, is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

With so many people out of work, and so many companies desperately seeking a sale, it seems everyone has been thrust in to some quasi sales role to seek out these introductions. On some sites, people are focused only on the number of contacts they can connect boast on their profile. Such a strategy may work for some, but to me, it completely undermines the real value of these sites. Instead, I connect with people and colleagues I know and work with. I regularly turn down contact requests from people I don’t know trying to tap in to my connections. Accepting those invitations would be a disservice to those people I am connected with and would likely usher in a new wave of people cold-calling on my connections. Who wants that?

Ultimately, I believe that Business and Social Networking will be one of the vehicles that help turn our economy around. Their adoption as a part of everyday business is expanding exponentially. I’d love to hear how you are using these avenues of cyber-networking to improve your own business situation or email me to learn more about how you can use tools like LinkedIn and FaceBook to your advantage.

Got something to say to me?