There’s a phrase that’s common in business, ‘return on investment’. It usually means that any money or time spent on research or marketing should be made back with interest. It underlies a passive investment, that throwing money at a problem, say, marketing, should produce results or it’s just not worth bothering with.
The fixation is often solely on the money to be spent. In the changing world of business interactions that we’re living in today we perhaps need to broaden this definition of investment to cover more active investments such as online and offline networking. An expert in marketing will tell us that the power or success of a marketing message relies on the return on connections that the message has made. It really is ‘who you know’ or rather ‘who knows and trusts you’. The more and more high quality connections we have in business the more likely we’ll have to have that greater return.
People buy from people they like. People like people who talk to them and to whom they can talk with. It’s this two-way connection that is defining the new era (if you’ve ever heard of Web 2.0 then that essentially is what it means – two way conversations). The business model of large faceless monolithic corporation serving faceless plebs has run out of acceptance by newer generations. They want to buy from cool people who are just like them, or how they aspire to be.
Nowadays we have more ‘friends’ than any previous generation due in part to the contact management systems available to us such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They allow us to be far more active in keeping those contacts familiar, with ongoing dialogues, than the address book of old which only ever prompted the annual Christmas card.
Business, like large ships, take so much longer to turn and respond to new ways of doing things. But it’s likely that increased connections and increasingly clever ways of managing them in a personable way will define new business. Soon we will all be asking the question, “how can I increase my return on my connections?”.