Fast Forward: Networking

Keith Ferrazzi suggests that the Relationship Economy will be built by getting personal, exercising your body as well as your mind, and moving marketing beyond branding.

It's time to reap what you've sown.
Companies are beginning to loosen constraints of recent years and do more strategic planning for growth. The companies who have already been focused on building the relationships they need to capitalize on growth will be poised to capture that growth wave that's about to occur. And those who wait for the RFPs to start flying around will be too late.

People are tired of being tired.
People spend way too much time at work not to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately, work has not been as fun in the last five years as people remember it being. The organizations that recognize that making the workplace a more enjoyable place and a more motivating environment, where people get excited again, will ultimately win.

Professionals are becoming people.
Professionals are realizing that personal relationships and business relationships are the same thing. We've always known that the way you build a personal relationship is to be intimate and vulnerable to develop trust. Now we're coming to grips with the fact that business relationships work the same way. Why? Because they're relationships.

We're finally putting our money where our mouths are.
The trend toward healthier eating and lifestyles is going to catch up with commercialization in the next year. Finally, health consciousness is moving from the fringes into the mainstream, so much that big corporations -- Dupont Agriculture and Nutrition and Safeway, to name a couple -- are aligning products and advertising with the notion that private companies have a responsibility to look out for the public's health.

More people are "running" their meetings.
Of course, widespread increased health consciousness contributes to more people taking care of their bodies. And for busy professionals, this often means incorporating more exercise into their workdays. Plus, companies are starting to promote this -- take Kaiser Permanente's "Thrive" campaign for example -- because standard health care costs are so high. In the future, don't be surprised to see actual cash incentives for employees to improve their health, say, by losing weight. Besides the health benefits of the exercise, there are tremendous benefits for relationship building. I've found workouts at Barry's Bootcamp in LA to be a great way to share personal passions with professional acquaintances and to be much more memorable experiences than standard meetings in the office.

The marketing strategist is dead.
The days of thinking that marketing doesn't drive sales is over. Those who don't believe that and don't understand it will be looking for employment in the next year. Marketing's responsibility is absolutely to drive sales. It's not just about brand now. You've got to practice what I call "high-touch marketing" and move away from broadcast advertising and other pure PR tactics and toward relationship-generating interactions with your clients -- try co-authoring articles with your clients and holding intimate dinners with lead prospects, clients, and people in your distribution channel.

Loyalty is on the move.
Loyalty programs first created in travel and leisure (airlines, hotels, etc.) are now migrating toward retail. Celebrating retailers like Barnes & Noble and grocers that use discount cards for more than e-coupons, others are realizing that they need to create a sense of membership and belonging that rewards their best clients -- not by giving away margin, but by recognizing what matters to their best clients.

Technology as a tool, not a solution (again).
In the face of all the hype over sophisticated customer relationship management technology and social networking services, we'll start to see technologies being incorporated into people's work processes as enablers, not end-all solutions. It's an old mantra, but it's especially important in light of people developing relationships for success. It's one thing to have an amazing data warehouse; it's another to be able to pick up the phone and call the individuals in your database and be able to count on them to take your call.

Shall we say, the Relationship Economy?
Everyday people talk about how more companies are in the business of providing services or solutions instead of products. And as that happens, fewer transactions take place in which a customer buys something and her relationship with the seller ends instantly. Thus, more transactions occur in which the relationships companies have with their customers are paramount.

Blogs teach branding.
Certainly, the ubiquity of blogs and the power they've begun to wield encourage more people to keep their own blogs. More importantly, the impact of the blogging phenomena will serve as a wakeup call to everyone - a call that shouts loud and clear how important it is to build your personal brand, even if you choose to do it through older media channels.