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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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How to generate opportunities through networking


Heather Townsend highlights the four ingredients that will help trainers generate opportunities through their network.

To gain opportunities from your networking activities – be they online or face-to-face – you need to become an effective word of mouth marketer. The best word of mouth marketers use four ingredients to run their word of mouth marketing campaigns; namely, credibility, top-of-the-mind visibility, a marketable personal brand and high levels of social capital.


Credibility is an intangible quality which is difficult to accurately define, as it means different things to different people. I personally define someone who is credible as a person who has developed a reputation as someone who "walks the walk and talks the talk" and delivers on all their commitments.

"With online networking giving people more choice over who within their network to recommend or contact, it has becomes easier to gain visibility with more people."

Before someone is willing to risk their reputation, by recommending you to someone within their network, they want to know that you are credible - ie committed, will conduct yourself appropriately and will be able to deliver on something they put you forward for.

Top-of-the-mind visibilty

It’s not enough to just be good at what you do, ie credible. You need to be visible to others – or to have a "profile". A training consultant I used to work with called it "top-of-the-mind" visibility. This is when someone within your network at work or external network sees or hears of an opportunity and turns to you first. With online networking giving people more choice over who within their network to recommend or contact, it has becomes easier to gain visibility with more people; but harder to maintain top-of-the-mind visibility with the people who are more likely to help you achieve your career or business goals.

To achieve top-of-the-mind visibility, you could:

  • Regularly be present at local face-to-face networking events.
  • Attend all the meetings of your formal networking club.
  • Post on forums regularly.
  • Update your status daily on social networking sites.
  • Tweet regularly during the day.
  • Send a regular newsletter to your network.
  • Turn up to company formal and informal social events.
  • Regularly send articles of interest to your network.

Personal brand

As people’s networks are getting larger, it’s not enough to just be visible and credible – your personal brand has to be marketable and compelling to referrers. Just as you make a choice about a brand every time you purchase a product from a retailer, people make a choice about your personal brand every time they recommend your services.

So, what do we mean by a personal brand? It’s what people say about you when you leave the room and they Google your name. And this is a key point – your personal brand is now as much as what the internet says about you, as what others say about you.

Many people spend literally days working out what services they provide and to whom – and are superb about articulating this message verbally, but then ignore their online footprint. Then, as soon as someone checks them out online, the impact of their carefully crafted message is lost.

Social capital

And finally, the last of the four ingredients is social capital. Probably, the easiest way to explain social capital is to take you back to your school days. Do you remember where you at school and there was a boy or a girl who was incredibly popular? Everyone wanted to be their friend. These were the people who were always picked first for teams. Everyone seemed to know this boy or girl, and when they decided what they wanted to do everyone seemed to want to do it with them. These people at school held great influence over the class. The most popular person at school had accumulated a large amount of what I am calling social capital.

Social capital is the imaginary bank account that you build up by being helpful to people. Social capital can be measured by the breadth and the depth of your network, the strength of your relationships within that network, and the good will and level of influence you have within that network. Remember, that people have to want to refer you – and that takes influence and goodwill, which you need to gain over time.

When you are networking, are you routinely adding in the ingredients – credibility, visibility, marketable personal brand and social capital – needed to generate opportunities?

Heather Townsend is the author of The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking. Over the past decade, Heather has worked with more than one hundred partners, coached and trained over 1000 lawyers, accountants and other professionals at every level, within the UK's leading and most ambitious professional practices.She specializes in working with professional services firms and is the founder of The Efficiency Coach.

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Heather Townsend


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