Its not what you know OR who you know

It’s who THEY know.

I think it’s interesting to reflect on the power of the secondary network. We naturally focus on the people we know (our Level-1 contacts), but let’s not ignore the Level-2’s

Network Levels

Network Levels

Here is a real example, with names changed to protect the innocent. I identified Hugo (via Linked-In) , who I thought would be an ideal customer. It transpired that Hugo was a Level-2, and that he and I both knew Ted. I emailed Ted, and, cutting a long story short, Ted put me in touch with Hugo who eventually became a valued customer. Had I tried to contact Hugo directly, I would have had no chance, as he is already maxed out with un-solicited approaches.

Networking Numbers

Networking Numbers

The “numbers” are interesting. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, thinks the limit to the number of people with whom we can maintain stable social relationships is roughly 150. Lets (conservatively) estimate that we have, on average, 100 Level-1 contacts. That puts the number of Level-2’s at ten thousand  (100 x 100). If you are looking for people who buy oak furniture, turbo-charge fork-lifts, or make decisions on IT spend, the chances are there are some in that Level-2 community.

A couple of observations:

1) Online : By ensuring that your on-line content has the ability to be shared you effectively allow the people who read it, to advocate it to their Level-1’s (your Level-2’s), which can potentially exponentially increase your exposure.

2) Face to Face : When you next find yourself at a networking event, relax, even if the none of the other people attending look like prospects, some of them could well connect you to prospects. 

One of earliest references to “Not what you know…” was actually said by a Film Director, Mike Cross: “In Hollywood, it’s not what you know but who you know,” adding that the awards ceremony was the perfect place to make connections.

I’m a simple northern lad, so my equivalent of an awards ceremony is probably a breakfast networking event. At the last one I attended I chatted to a nice lady next to the coffee and biscuits. I will probably never be her ideal client, but it’s quite possible that I know someone who could be.

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Blame Data for Bad Customer Service

I recently phoned my mobile operator with a query. I spoke to five different people, all of whom made me  quote my customer account number, and repeat the details of my query, which I can now do in my sleep.. (That was AFTER I’d diligently keyed my account number into their call-handling system.).

A few months earlier, I saw the CEO of the very same company speak, with passion and conviction, about putting the customer first. Sadly my experience was completely at odds with his intent.

But this isn’t about his sincerity, or that of the other people in the organisation.  It’s about disparate systems, processes and databases, each of which is responsible for a different part of the customer relationship.

This can often feel like unco-ordinated mayhem..

In my experience, the organisation in question is actually in the majority. The reality (and it’s a difficult one) is that to be truly ‘customer centric’, you need a single database which feeds all processes. Whilst I would never underestimate how difficult it is to adopt this ideal, it’s worth trying to go as far on the journey as possible, because every step will reduce innefficeincy, improve the customer experience, and so help the bottom line. If you don’t adopt a customer-centric philosophy, processes and systems can proliferate to the point of collapse,

Some call this Customer Data Integration (CDI),  or Master Data Management (MGM). I call it Data Harmonisation, because it involves taking many different  different inputs and orchestraing them towards a single, co-ordinated ensemble.

The nearer you get to a single customer database, the more duplication you drive out, and the more value you add.