Networking Tips - How to Strengthen Your Network Right Now
I was thinking this morning that it's been more than half a year since I started writing these articles. I feel like it's only appropriate to write a follow-up to one of my earliest stories, "5 Ways To Be a Better Networker This Year."
Like that story, this one is for you whether you have a business or a career, and if you love (or hate) networking events. We're talking about this because referrals and opportunities are more important than ever to your success, and they rely on healthy relationships to happen.
Today, I'm going to share 3 strategies you can use to strengthen your relationships and the community of your network.
1. Give Back
One of the biggest misconceptions about effective networking is that it's about YOU. In a lot of ways, it isn't.
You aren't trying to build a Rolodex of people for favors, you're trying to cultivate community. One of the most important means of building a community is caring for its members.
Are you taking care of the people in your network? When's the last time you sent someone congratulations on a business achievement or a job change? When did you turn out to support a friend's workshop? When have you even asked yourself this question about the people you rely on for referrals and big leads?
This is an easy thing to overlook, but a huge opportunity if you take the time to consider it.
Skip to Action on "Giving Back":
- LinkedIn: Congratulate people via LinkedIn messages (rather than a like or ignoring the news that LinkedIn highlights)
- Go to / Support Events: Attend events and / or socially support initiatives of the other business owners or career professionals you follow
- Look for Business Opportunities for them: Make it a point to scan the news or opportunities to email to relevant people in your network
- For example, check out HARO or Help A Reporter Out. It's a daily email alert I get with PR pitch opportunities across many categories. I read these often and if I see a pitch that's perfect for someone I know or their business - I email it to them!
2. Stay Updated with Your Network
Do you know the last time you talked to or saw most people in your community? Are you up to speed on what their latest projects or who their ideal clients currently are?
Having more of this information can help you give back and strengthen those relationships. It could also majorly benefit you - especially if someone is changing their business or hiring, etc. and you were thoughtful and forward-thinking enough to ask!
All you need is 15 minutes weekly to make significant progress on this.
Skip to Action on "Staying Updated":
- Build a Database: Consider using or starting a Customer Relationship Management database (aka "CRM") that will allow you to track the last time you contacted individuals in your network - you'll know when it's been awhile and can identify where a phone call or email might be wise (or overdue!)
- Weekly Check-ins: Set a 15-minute calendar reminder on your calendar weekly called "Stay Updated" - use the time to email as many people as you can in your network with a brief email to ask - "Hi? How's it going? What's the big thing you're working on these days and who would be an ideal client/customer/person to send your way?"
- This'll allow you to: 1) get on their radar, 2) know more about what opportunities they have or need, 3) help you make valuable connections that could benefit them and you at the same time
3. Get Creative About Meeting With People
I say down with the concept that networking means attending events. Maybe events really aren't your thing - and the thought of going to one makes you clam up. That doesn't mean you have to sit out networking.
In fact, extrovert and introvert alike, it's important to remember that networking, when done authentically and from a community-minded perspective, is really just another word for building meaningful professional relationships.
We don't only forge meaningful relationships at events - we do that through so many different ways in our personal lives. So let's take that lesson into the real world.
Skip to Action on "Meeting with People":
- Just shorten your "coffees" if you're busy, don't cancel: If you're going through a busy season in your business, invite old and new contacts to a half hour phone call, Google Hangout, or Skype date
- Bring people together: Know a handful of people with similar interests? Plan your own small intimate event, like a group coffee or lunch, and introduce them all. You'll add value and you'll have done it on your terms, in your comfort zone
- Think outside your zip code: Don't let your local market limit you - consider meeting with people that you know through online ("Virtual Coffee Dates") - whether it's a call or video chat, you may be able to build very valuable relationships with people thousands of miles away from you if you ask them to "coffee" this way
- Create Dynamic Ways to Connect: Create interesting opportunities to get to know people better. You could ask people to guest blog, interview someone on Facebook live, or start a podcast. All of these things give you a chance to connect a little outside the box, give back, and forge new relationships or strengthen existing ones.
Today's story is in many ways related to past stories that delve into other aspects of networking, relationship building, and generating more opportunities through these connections.
Here are a few articles you may find interesting for further reading.
- 5 Ways To Be a Better Networker This Year: An introduction to authentic networking
- Why You Need a Business Giraffe: How to help your network and community know what you love/what resonates with you to get them to send you opportunities!
- Everyone is Worth Knowing - How To Build a Network That Matters: Why it's valuable to connect with lots of different people, and not judge a book by its cover - or someone's "perceived" ability (or lack of ability) to help you
- Know Your Brand Bank Balance - Are you making Brand Deposits or Brand Withdrawals?: How healthy are your relationships with people in your network? Use Steve Jobs' concept of a company "brand bank" to build better, more impactful relationships with others
There's so much ahead
It's been a whirlwind year this so far. I can definitely say as we approach July 1, so much has changed since that January 1, 2016.
I think it's easy to forget that there's another HALF a year left for us to make something happen. Maybe for you, that will be strengthening your network, or starting your business, or building a marketing plan, or revisiting those dusty resolutions.
Whatever it is, there's still time left to make this an amazing year, or an even better one. So let's go!