Monday, 25 January 2010

[Ecademy] Community : Ecademy - making sales, or advancing business?

[This is one of the blog posts I posted at Ecademy. I am reposting them here as I probably won't be in Ecademy much longer.]

[Date posted to Ecademy: 09-Oct-2008. Original URL:]

Reading Nikki's recent blog, "I'm on Ecademy to make money, and so are you..." gave me pause for thought. [Later note: Nikki seems to have left Ecademy, so the links no longer work.]

Many Ecademists are here to promote their B2B enterprises - services, usually. It's a perfect playground for marketing and promotions people: in using Ecademy to sell their skills, they're demonstrating them. Job done!

I get worried, though, about Nikki's view of an Ecademy where everyone's here to make sales.

I have a vision of a circle of people in suits, each selling to the one in front, who's selling to the one in front of them, ... A bit like a sales version of MC Escher's "Ascending and Descending".

Clearly, that can't work, or involvement in Ecademy's a zero sum, and there are as many losers as winners. We all want to be winners, right?

As far as I can tell, and the Powers will doubtless be along shortly to set me right if I'm wrong, Ecademy was always about networking, more than direct selling.

The way it has to work is if we're primarily working towards promoting our businesses - and, more importantly, each other's businesses by referral - to non-Ecademists, with sales to Ecademists a secondary objective. That's how the zero sum gets broken. Coincidentally, it's also how networking works best!

As I've said elsewhere, I'm here mainly to get access to the right people, in the right places, to advance LookBox's success. Right now, I'm looking for a part-time (portfolio) CFO, and people to help with business development into Developing World educational projects, particularly Indian Subcontinent and China . In all cases, people who themselves have the right contacts to make things happen.

It's possible that, in the process of finding these people, I manage to jump a step and make direct contact with potential purchasers of our products and services. If that happens, I'll be delighted of course - but it's an aspiration, not an expectation.

Either way, with the right contacts made, we stand fair to make excellent sales ... just not in the direct model.

The quid pro quo for all of this - apart from the membership subscription, of course - is to be a connector, someone who enables connections, rather than simply exploiting them.

How many of the intensely sales-oriented individuals who blogspam are primarily connectors? I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that in networking meetings, the most pushy self-promoters have been the least likely to say, "I can't help you with that, but [name] over there can, and I know a couple of others who aren't here who might be useful too. Give me a card, and I'll get you set up." And they've had a lot fewer around them than the connectors, the hubs of the room, as Mike Segall pointed out in a recent seminar at a business conference in Birmingham.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's wrong to promote one's business to Ecademists. For some, particularly the marketing and bizdev people, that makes perfect sense.

But I'm mindful that there's a lot more sales opportunity out there than in here.

If we're all to advance our businesses, doesn't it make sense to most of us to change the emphasis from "How much money have I made out of Ecademy"? to "How much money have I helped Ecademists make?"

[Update: please also check out Fraser Hay's blog - same sentiment, different angle.]

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