Online Networking…Expanding Your Social Footprint

by Linda P. Kester October 2008

Who can deny in this time of Internet dependency and social networking that it doesn’t pay to get yourself out there? Here Linda Kester explains why it’s more important than ever to connect socially to contacts online.

Way back in 1988, I met monthly with the other members of the Ocean/Monmouth County Business Association. We would have a standard lunch at the Brielle Yacht Club and do a little networking. Occasionally I would stand up and deliver a spiel on the benefits of leasing. I met some nice people, but I didn’t get enough business from it to cover my cost of membership.

Fast forward 20 years. It’s 2008 and a networking revolution is underway. I can network with people all over the world and I don’t even have to leave my house. The new method of networking is through the Internet, and it’s called social media, or social networking.

The focus of social networking is online communities of people who share interests and activities. The only interest I shared with my business association was that we all did business in the same county. Through online social networking sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo Pulse, Ning, Spoke and Zoom Info, I can connect with people I already have a relationship with and network with their associates. It’s much more focused than just showing up at a monthly meeting and hoping that a member would need my services.

The Internet gets busier everyday. The upside of this is that it’s easier and more efficient to connect with lessees and vendors. The downside is that if you don’t claim your space, your competitors will. Heaven forbid that your competitor has a name similar to yours. If he is on the social networking sites and a customer googles your name, he most likely will appear first. It’s called your Internet footprint. An Internet footprint is the impact you have on the Web.

You might be old school and think “This is nice Linda, but I’m not putting my information on these sites, the people who need to find me know how to get in touch with me.” Do they?

My friend Jeffrey has been in leasing since 1989. He recently left one leasing company for another. I googled him. One press release came up that referred to him. It was not even on the first page of results. Nineteen years in leasing and there was only one item with his name.

Jeffrey works like a dog. He prospects everyday, regardless of how many documentation fires he has burning. He brings his lunch to work. His vendors love him. But can they find him? Jeffrey has a noncompete agreement but it’s specifically for telephone equipment vendors. During the past ten months he has not been allowed to call on the vendors that know him best. If they want to find him, it’s not easy.

Our job as leasing sales professionals is to make it easy for our customers to find us. We need to be visible. If you register with just one social networking site it dramatically improves your search engine rankings. It’s vital to claim your space. I have claimed my space by having a website that is my name. I wonder how the other Linda Kester’s out there feel about this? There are three other Linda Kester’s with a fairly large Internet footprint. They all come up behind me. I got a call recently from Linda Castor. She is an RN in Illinois. She wrote a book about nutrition. Someone called her wanting to purchase a book. After a very awkward conversation she determined that the customer wanted to purchase my book about leasing, not her book about nutrition. If Linda Castor was in leasing, Linda Kester would have lost a sale.

Expanding your Internet footprint is one objective, but your primary objective is to connect with strategic accounts. I heard about a woman who was determined to penetrate a particular company. She connected with as many people as she could on the social networking sites until she found someone who was connected to her prospect. She was able to garner an introduction and ended up with a nice-sized deal.

That story made me excited about leasing reps who are calling on national accounts. Social networking is a much better strategy than blind cold calling.

The next step in social networking is blogging. The word blog is short for web-log. It is a very interactive networking method, and it is worth investigating because you can find blogs in the leasing industry, blogs in different equipment industries, or blogs that are tailored to the type of lessees you would like to attract. A simple way to investigate blogs is to sign up for a bloglines account (www.bloglines.com). Then you search for blogs in your equipment niche.

Once you visit the blogs and get a feel for how they work you can post a comment and suddenly you are having a conversation with a potential lessee or vendor. If you are courageous you can start your own blog at sites like blogger.com, typepad.com or wordpress.com. Those sites teach you the basics and can help you get started quickly.

One thing to know, if you visit a blog, the person who hosts the blog may know you visited. There is a program from mybloglog.com that shows the host who visited their blog. If you have a photo on the Internet this can also come up so they can actually see who visits. If you already have a blog you may want to install this widgit so you can see who your readers are.

There is another social networking avenue called Twitter in which you post what you are doing during the day. People update Twitter hourly. I was thinking about joining this site but how many times during the day do my business associates want to read “I’m looking in the refrigerator again hoping some good leftovers have magically appeared.” There is already a competitor to Twitter called Plurk, so you can take your pick of these micro blogs.

A discussion about social media would not be complete without mentioning video. Shawn Passman, a 25-year equipment leasing veteran, uses streaming video to connect with both his vendors and lessees. Passman explains, “I use video to train vendor sales reps on using leasing as a closing tool. My national accounts rave about the ease of use and they can see exactly who has viewed the video and how many times it has been viewed. It has increased productivity so much that I’m now filming a video for equipment manufacturers and putting it on their websites for them.”

It’s easy to get started using social networks. First, it’s free. Second, it’s easy to use and you don’t need to pay your IT or Web person to update information. Third, just start with the very basics and once you feel comfortable then you can simply cut and paste your information into another site and expand your Internet footprint. You might want to put a link to your social networking site as a footer on outgoing e-mail. I’m currently registered on LinkedIn and Zoom Info. I’m now going to put my contact information on Spoke because who knows … someone from the Ocean Monmouth County Business Association might be trying to find me.



Linda P. Kester is a bestselling author and professional speaker with 20 years of experience in leasing sales and marketing management. She has helped hundreds of salespeople increase their volume. Her book, 366 Marketing Tips for Equipment Leasing, has produced results for leasing companies in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia.

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