What’s a Connectodex? Simply put, it’s the OPEN Forum tool designed to help make it easier for you to connect, network, partner and learn. You know how hard you work to grow your business. OPEN Forum hosts educational content from many leading business experts and thought leaders and also has created the ability to connect with like-minded business owners who are also trying to reach their goals.
But, like anything worth doing, it takes a little thought, strategy and action to get the most bang for your buck.
If you’re going to find businesses, promote your business, discover strategic partners, and give and receive referrals, you’ve got to go to work on building some trust. Just showing up in a directory isn’t really enough, Tell us why we might want to know more, jump in and answer questions, start discussions, and lead us back to places we could learn more about your unique offerings. In short, participate and engage and you can benefit in the end.
Here are few tips that can help you get the most from this tool.
1) Join the Community – Become a member of the site and you can more fully participate, but more than that, it’s the first step to building a profile. I know registering for anything can seem like a hassle, but think about it, you want to know that you’re in the good company of other business owners, right?
It’s pretty simple to register, in fact, if you’re already an OPEN Cardmember you can login using your existing americanexpress.com id and password. And, think about it, when people register to join a community, they state their intentions to participate fully.
If you’re going to participate in this network it’s probably going to need to become a bit of a habit, so make sure you visit the “notifications” tab in your settings and have the system send you email notifications when people want to connect and comment. That way you can stay on top of the action.
There’s also a “visibility” tab in settings that allows you to participate privately, but, again, if this is a networking tool check the high visibility setting so people can see how active you are.
2) Build a compelling profile – Trust building can happen when you provide useful information and access to even more information available on the web. OPEN Forum allows you to build a personal and business profile so take advantage of the real estate.
Photos are a must – nothing says nobody’s home like default icon.
And use those links – your personal profile allows you to add your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profile information, leading people to find more.
The business profile allows you to tell your business story in more detail and add images of products and logos. This can be a great place to help people make a connection with your business. One tip – There’s no need to be boring here.
Last thing – grab a branded vanity URL under the “Your Business URL” box so you can easily point people to your profile. Here’s mine - https://www.openforum.com/ducttape
3) Start the connection process – there’s a tab in the profile building process called “your provides and seeks” – this may be the heart of your prospecting activity so pay heed to this one. “List” the services you provide in as much details as possible. You can even suggest categories to make the list more complete. Don’t be shy here, you want people doing searches on the site to stumble on your profile when they are seeking something.
The flip side to this is “seeks.” The idea here is that you list things you are seeking. Expand your thinking with me here on this one. Don’t just think about things you are looking to buy – think bigger – what products and services do your customers need? Maybe you could build your network of some best of class providers and then build value for your customers by referring your network. Use this to help expand your network.
4) Take advantage of the network – The good news is that if you’ve followed me to this point, you’ve built a firm foundation for connecting. So, let’s connect. Head on over to the Connectodex “find a business” tab in the left sidebar and start filtering through members to find folks you think it might be smart to connect with here.
You can filter by geography to find locals or by industry and what other list they are seeking to laser in on possible connections. (I like the list view over gallery view because I can see more on one screen.)
Once you spot some members you would like to connect with you click on their profile or name and either introduce yourself or simply request a connection. I think introductions are nice because it gives you the opportunity to suggest why they might make a great resource for you.
Did you get that subtly? Don’t charge in and sell yourself to all, find people that might make good partners for your business and ask them to tell you more about themselves. You can get a better response to this form of networking.
5) Engage those leads – once you start making introductions and connections it’s up to you to turn those from digital connection to potential business partner or customer. This can be best done by responding to introductions and connections, asking questions, answering questions and otherwise helping your connections, and for that matter the entire community, better understand – and like – what you have to say.
Over time, taking the “providing value” and “gently educating” approach can lead to success in building any benefit from participating in networks and I don’t know that the formula will ever change – online or off.
Oh, and look me up, I’m waiting to learn more about your business.
John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach and author of Marketing Plan Pro powered by Duct Tape Marketing - the world’s #1 selling marketing planning software.