Successful networking goes beyond “working the room” and collecting business cards in the digital age. It’s all about engaging, building and being able to sustain relationships you developed with a well planned networking strategy. Before you create the strategy, you need to understand the why.
Determine Why Networking Is Important to You
- To build a support network – Do you need the services of other professionals in your field or other professionals in roles that support your work?
- Generate new/more revenue – How many contacts will you need to make to generate an additional $1000.00 a month in revenue?
- Reach a specific audience (for example, finding venture capital) – Build a network of people who have and people who know people who have venture capital available.
Make sure you have a focused message to share with your network. (Start here to create one.)
After you define the “why” of your networking planning, you’ll be able to focus more on “where” you will find the people you need to be connecting with and the “how”.
As you are planning, remember networking doesn’t always mean pounding the pavement and attending events. You can start with with helping others. It is a great way to grow your network and your brand.
Steps to Win at Your Networking Strategy
- Plan – Actually write out your networking plan and focus on what results you want to achieve.
- Refine – What have you done that’s worked? What hasn’t worked? Is your current network really where you want and need to be?
- Seek – Whom do you need to meet? Where are you going to meet them? A networking group? Online (somewhere like LinkedIn)? Perhaps your local Chamber of Commerce?
- Develop – Once you’ve made some connections, it’s time to develop relationships. Create conversations, make a conscious effort to reach out and cultivate the relationship.
- Sustain – Here’s where you make a schedule to be sure you are continuing to engage the key players in your networking strategy.
- Grow – Once you’ve done all of the above you aren’t finished. You have to keep repeating and refining the process.
Decide how many new contacts you want to make each month/quarter and then think about how to best get those new contacts.
Don’t forget to look at the people you are already connected to and build from there. Start with conversations with your current connections, there is a good chance they’ll know someone who will be a great addition to your network.
And don’t forget that your networking strategy is a “living” document. You will discover, over time, what works and what doesn’t work. Make sure you adapt your plan accordingly and keep your network growing and thriving.
If you are new to networking, read this article featured on Entrepreneur.com – “5 Tips For Networking Like a Rock Star“.
How have your been networking up until now? What worked and what didn’t?
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