Having recently started working with Igale and moving into a bit of a hybrid role, I’m doing some account management, a bit of sales, and going back to my roots working on our own marketing.
During my university placement, and subsequently in my first role after graduation I was fortunate to work with a really talented manager who has gone on the be the commercial CFO of a global luxury fashion brand and is currently a global VP for a major news outlet. He gave me one of the hardest commercial schoolings that a graduate could hope for and one of his many pieces of advice that still sticks with me today was to build a solid network of contacts. I distinctly remember him finding a networking event and suggesting I sign up, go along and just go and have a chat to some people and see if we can help each other, which at the time seemed a bit alien to me, but now makes total sense!
Recently I have been looking for some specialist support on a project we’ve been working on. After racking my brains, I realised I didn’t know someone who could do exactly what we needed. I did however know of two people who I was confident could likely point me in the direction of someone who was right for the job and one person, a friend of a friend who I thought might be able to help with some more generic advice on procuring these services. By asking three people with their different networks, associations and experiences as many questions as possible I was able to much better focus my search for the person or people who could ultimately help me undertake this specialist task.
The thing that was most interesting was that all three people guided me to a type of service I didn’t even know existed, a specialism within a specialism, very niche with a few companies who focus on doing just this specialism. Many businesses offered this specialism as one of their many services but getting through to the right people to get an understanding of whether they were indeed right was proving very difficult. On reflection, the challenge I had initially is that I didn’t know what I was actually searching for, just the problem I had, and a bit of a direction on how I might go about solving it.
The crux of the issue here, as is the case with many business problems, it’s not what you know, but being aware of what you don’t know, and then researching to try and plug the gaps and ask better questions to get better quality help from the people who can ultimately help you. This is where speaking to someone who knows the area is likely to give much better information than what can be researched through marketing collateral alone.
Once I knew what I was searching for and had a handful of recommendations for people who could help, and some guidance on how I should go about assessing the suitability of the different businesses, I felt much more able to then compare their respective offerings. As much of my career has involved working on website, app and bespoke software projects, I was interested to see whether any of these recommendations ranked highly on Google for the new terms I had learned I needed to search for.
The result was that they were all within the first three pages, but all outside the top 5 for the terms I had searched. This got me thinking that to some extent Marketing has never been easier, anyone can build or commission a website, set up their company on social media and start looking to attract clients to take up their services. And those that have invested heavily in marketing are in many ways building themselves a distinct advantage over their competitors. Or are they? Having used my network to help assess the market and getting recommendations of people who should be able to help me, the top 5 results on Google haven’t been mentioned once.
Whilst the recommendations I’ve been given may not be the best marketed companies, I’m much more confident doing business when I’ve been recommended by someone I trust to do work with someone they trust. As consumers, we have become much wiser, and know there are no checks or balances on what people write on their websites, and whilst I’m far from suggesting that every company is out to hoodwink us, we have collectively learned scrutinise the marketing veneer and ask ourselves whether this company can really help us.
What really struck me is that despite having spent much of my career in digital marketing, rather than turn to Google, my first port of call when I needed a service I didn’t understand the intricacies of was my trusted network. Which surely means marketing has never been harder? Speak to any small business and its rarely co-incidence that much of the work from their early days has come from recommendations, word of mouth relationships of reputation off the back of their previous work.
Continuing the advice of my first manager, and throughout my career to date I’ve continued to build up a broad network of skilled professionals who I know I can call on when the need arises, and similarly who I expect to call on me when they believe I can help them.
So next time you’re stuck on a problem, rather than dig through Google, rack through your old contacts and through LinkedIn and see who you know who might be able to help, you might just rekindle an old relationship or be introduced to a new connection who can help you out.