If you have been a reader of my blog for a while, you know that I often speak about collaboration and partnering. The tourism industry is unique in that we often partner with competitors to bring business in. There is even a term for it: Co-opetition. But your success is directly related to how many people you know in the industry.
I was named a "Top Networker and Connector in the Tourism Industry" (Thanks TourOperator.com!) so I thought I would share some strategies and resources with you so you can leverage and grow your network.
Be helpful before you ask for help.
Years ago, I read Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty,Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, by Harvey Mackay. The premise of the book is that you should always be looking for ways to be helpful to others in your network. I love to connect people via email (or WeChat) and help them build new relationships. I often forward articles to people I know about something they would be interested in.
Tour operators reach out to me asking for help finding contacts at DMOs or attractions. If I don't know who that is, I take the time to find out. Then I have helped two people! When you can be a resource to others, your network will naturally expand.
Not everyone needs to be your best friend.
In his book The Tipping PointThe Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the concept of "loose connections" or "weak ties." Those are people that you know, but not very well. You could reach out to them and ask a question or a favor, but you won't be seeing them at your Thanksgiving dinner. People mistakenly think their network is only as strong as the people they know well, but this book shows that the strength of your network is based on who your close friends know—and who those people know.
Think of it as circles of connections. When you build a relationship with a "super-connector," you get access to everyone they know.
People like to be helpful—but don't take advantage of that.
I had a friend reach out recently with a dilemma. She had been asked to give another tourism contact the names and addresses of tour operators they could contact for sales calls. My friend usually has no problem with that, but she said the other person only calls when they want something. That creates an imbalance and doesn't feel good. So, make sure you provide value and build the relationship before you start asking for favors.
Do you use LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a networker's best tool because it is set up to build your network. The challenge is that very few of us use this free software as well as we could. Take some time this week and make sure your profile is filled out. Add a professional photo of yourself, and an image of your business in the background. There! You have already done more than most.
I will write more in a future post about ways to leverage your LinkedIn account, but for now set a goal to go on there once a week and find someone to connect with (I am there at Sally Davis Berry—just mention you are a reader and we can connect!) or comment on someone's post or article.
Everyone has a network.
Many years ago, I learned a valuable lesson. I was involved with my local Chamber of Commerce and was the chair of the Tourism Committee. We held a FAM (familiarization tour) for all the volunteers at the visitors' desk. We took a bus of mostly retirees around the county for the day so they would be familiar with all the popular stops.
At lunch, I sat with a lovely older woman and as we chatted, we found out we both knew someone who was a square dance caller! We traded stories about Mike and his family and enjoyed lunch. At the end of the day, she asked for my business card. Turns out she had been a travel agent for over 50 years and was the head of the NY Businesswomen in Travel Network and was looking for a location for their annual 300-person meeting and decided to host it where I was the Director of Sales!
I learned a powerful lesson that day—be nice and connect with everyone because you don't know who they know. Lou and I became fast friends and she was an inspiration to me for years.
Action steps to build your network this week:
- Fill out your LinkedIn profile. Connect with someone.
- Share an article (maybe from a Google alert you have set up?) with a colleague.
- Call one of your top 5 clients and say, "What can I do to help you this week?"
- Consider reading The Tipping Point or Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty. (This was written in 1999 and uses terms like "electronic mail" and "the Net." And mostly talks about men in business. So, maybe get this one at a used bookstore!)
- Are you a podcast listener? Try this episode of Destination on the Left and hear how networking has helped Jim from Visit Cheyenne end up in a job he loves.
Written by Sally Davis Berry. This was republished with permission and originally appeared at Sally Davis Berry.