Monday, May 26, 2008

Hybrid Networking?

Gas prices in the United States recently reached $4 per gallon in most parts of the country. For many small business professionals, the rapid increase in gas prices has become a serious business concern, particularly for companies whose sales and support staff rely on face-to-face interaction with customers. Many companies are now evaluating the ROI of each type of 'trip' being made by employees to determine their cost-effectiveness. Daily commutes, individual sales calls and networking functions are all being scrutinized, and in many cases removed from budgets as the speculation of increased fuel costs continue.

For many professionals living in the suburbs the cost of driving their SUV (at least until they purchase a more fuel efficient car) has become a rude awakening as gas costs can often exceed $1,000 per month. Because of this, many people are beginning to take a closer look at more efficient ways of doing business. For many, working at home has become an obvious way to curb monthly fuel costs. Additionally, many companies are beginning to rely more and more on web conferencing software tools to facilitate sales meetings. Look no further than a 3-month stock chart of Citrix (maker of GoTo Meeting) to see where this is headed.

Along those same lines, online social networking for business is also witnessing an increase in traffic as professionals seek out cost-effective ways to meet new people. Fast Pitch! for example, has witnessed 300% new member growth over the past two months, the largest increase since we launched 1 1/2 years ago! It's no coincidence that this is happening while traditional networking functions are witnessing as much as a 50% decrease in attendance. Recent studies suggest...

Less people are attending networking events, tradeshows, expos and conferences, as the cost of travel (gas) continues to rise.

Similarly, a recent report also showed that LinkedIn (the online social network for your job seekers) recently saw a 361% increase in web traffic during Q1. While this could be in large part due to the fragile job market here in the U.S. (250,000 jobs lost in Q1 - people updating their resume, etc). it could also be an indicator of overall behavioral changes taking place among professionals with regards to how they conduct business and communicate with one another.

From my vantage point, I think what we're now witnessing is the beginning of what I conveniently now call the early stages of HYBRID NETWORKING - a blending and complementing of two forms of networking (online and offline) in reaction to the increased costs associated with traditional networking. Much like a Hybrid Car, most of us aren't ready to completely abandon gas (offline networking) altogether, however we realize we need to become more efficient by using technology (online networking). Similarly, for many of us in business, we cannot completely ignore the importance of offline (face to face) networking, yet we also realize that as the ROI of traveling continues to decrease, the need to discover alternative ways to communicate (online networking) will increase.

Fast Pitch! is clearly in a position to benefit from Hybrid Networking as we continue to offer more features than any other online network in the world. As I mention time and time again, we've designed Fast Pitch! to allow people (particularly small business owners) the ability to network and market their business in a more cost-effective way. Now consider this...

For less than the price of 3 gallons of gas you can meet thousands of people on Fast Pitch!

Who knows... maybe Fast Pitch! will become the Toyota Prius of networking in the coming years... :)

Good Luck!



Blogger Rich said...

Brilliant analysis. Hybrid Networking. We need to add this to the business lexicon.

Working virtually is firmly established. With the price of fuel and energy increasing Hybrid Networking is now a necessity.

4:25 AM  

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