Activate the “Hidden Networks” Right Under Your Nose

Howard Gray’s Advice for Tapping Into the Biggest Fans You Never Knew You Had

Every business owner wants to cultivate a network of people who buy their products, utilize their services, or interact with their content. They want people to not only remember them but think they’re so special they simply must recommend them to others.

Building this community takes a lot more skill than just handing out your business card to strangers at a cocktail party.  Howard Gray argues that you need to find and activate your “hidden networks.”

Family, friends, classmates, and colleagues are obvious. But what about your soccer team from three years ago? What about the folks you see at the coffee shop each morning? Make sure they see your e-newsletters, Linkedin posts, and event invitations, too — because they could be your next big client or partner.

Howard is an expert at helping people and companies build better networks. The educator, coach, and entrepreneur has led experiential learning sessions for executives at IBM, Spotify, Mastercard, GE, and the United Nations. Howard visited LIFT Labs PHL recently to offer some tips founders can use to find “hidden” networks and turn them into advocates.

It starts with a story.

Expanding your network begins with telling a great story. The same elements that make your favorite TV show binge-worthy will make the story of your business memorable. Great characters, emotions, humor, tension, relatability, and resolutions can all make the story of your business stand out, get people talking, and grow your audience.

Highlight peak moments.

On the surface, the Magic Castle Hotel in Los Angeles appears to be a no-frills, average place to stay. So why is it a top-rated LA hotel on Trip Advisor? Because kids can pick up the red “popsicle hotline” telephone by the pool and get free popsicles delivered by a crisply dressed butler in white gloves. That “peak moment” is what families remember when rating the hotel and recommending it to others. The moral of that story? Identify, share, and amplify your own peak moments and you’ll have a much better chance of people not only remembering you but recommending you to others.

Follow the 1/9/90 rule.

Howard argues that for every 100 people, 1% create content, 9% curate content, and 90% passively consume content. In today’s metric-driven world, many businesses focus on serving the 90% in their networks because they represent the largest potential audience. Howard, however, argues that focusing on the 9% can prove far more fruitful. That group includes opinionated followers who regularly comment on Twitter posts, people who consistently click on links in your email newsletters, or journalists that use your statistics in their news stories. They’re talkative, opinionated and the most likely group to share your content and story with others.

Launch signals — and be consistent.

You’ll never access your hidden network if you stay hidden yourself. Howard says to “launch signals” to get people’s attention. Share a post on LinkedIn. Publish an article on Medium. The key? Consistency.

“Most people we want to reach are closer than we think,” said Howard. “Human beings are creatures of habit. Launching signals on a regular basis reminds people in our network that we exist and makes them more likely to share our stories with new people that can eventually become part of our networks.”

 

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