- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On April 3, 2015
- Career management
Networking can help you boost your career even when you are happy in your current position. It is not something you should do just when you are out of work.
When you have a well-maintained network you can:
- Quickly find resources that you need today to complete your toughest marketing projects. You will find these resources through references, eliminating uncertainty in choosing your team.
- Use your network as your “virtual board of advisors” bringing their experience to all your business decisions and projects.
Two weeks ago I gave 3 tips on how to build your network. Here are 16 more tips on how to build and maintain your network.
1. Have a goal for your networking
As you do for your marketing projects you need to have a goal for your networking. Preferably a well-defined goal or even a SMART goal. Who do you want to meet? Why? What is it you want from this effort? Write it down somewhere. Networking is plenty of work so you should know why you are doing it and when you arrive.
2. Dig your well now
You should start networking long before you need to lean on your network for help. As a rule of thumb it takes at least six months to build up a relationship with someone in business. You need to invest this time upfront before you need to get something back.
3. Always Be Helping
Networking is about asking how you can help the other person first. For many years I’ve written, “do let me know if you need anything” at the end of emails to my network. Ask how you can help as often as possible.
4. Be a connector
What’s the most valuable thing you can give your network? Your network. The most valuable thing you can usually do to help someone in your network is to connect them to another appropriate person in your network. Need to know everything about SEO? You can Google it and spend the next decade reading or contact me and I will connect you with my SEO friend.
5. Be a relevant information provider
Information has power. A great “excuse” to stay-in-touch with your network is to send them information tailored to them. (Note: This is not segmentation or persona marketing. This is actually knowing the person.) Send your network members a relevant article ever couple of months and you will stand out.
6. Remember big days
I’m sure you know this one but people do like their birthdays. A lot of systems today make it pretty easy to find out and remember people’s birthdays (for example, Facebook, Gmail and Linkedin) So please do acknowledge people’s birthdays. You can go even further than posting on their Facebook page. If you really want to go crazy send them a birthday card. (You know those paper things.)
7. Use your pen
Which brings me to the mighty pen. One of today’s “uncool” ideas is to write a note or a letter. So if you really want to stand out and show your network contacts you really care, buy yourself some simple note cards. Write on them with a pen and stick on a stamp.
8. Drink a lot of coffee
Coffee is one of the world’s best excuses to catch up with people. Whenever you can manage it invite one of your contacts for a cup of coffee. These meetings can be short but you are going to be important to people when you take the time to meet them.
Say your pen is broken or you simply don’t have time right now. You should “ping” people as often as possible. Send people an email, text or voice mail–any kind of effort to contact them. People care that you care.
10. What’s an ideal prospect?
Want to make networking events and conferences more fun and more effective? Next time you’re at a break in a conference go up to the nearest person, introduce yourself, ask what business they’re in and then ask them “what’s an ideal prospect for your business”. Tell them you always try to connect people and knowing what their clients look like might help you find one. Most business people like to answer this one.
11. Always be helping again
While we’re at this networking event. Remember rule #3. When you meet new people at an event try to help them. What can you do to help them? Ask questions to try to unearth this. Don’t even bother trying to get something for yourself at this stage. Give first. Ask later.
12. Follow up on the way home
If you take the train, bus or taxi home from the networking event, why not follow up now before you forget or get buried in email the next day. Grab the business cards you collected and send short emails to follow up on the conversations you had. Personalize as much as possible.
13. Get your Linkedin profile up to snuff
Linkedin is the online base for business networking these days. If you’ve just met someone at a conference one of the first things they do is look your up on Linkedin. So what do they see if they pull up your Linkedin profile? Is it what you want them to see? Does your profile line up nicely with your goals?
14. Post content to your Linkedin page
You’re into content marketing, right? How about putting some of your great content on your Linkedin profile? Sharing quality information with your network or prospective network members is a helpful thing to do and makes you look good.
15. Divide your Rolodex
As you become successful with networking you are going to hit a problem. You will have too many contacts. In order to handle these contacts you’re going to have to start organizing your Rolodex. You’re probably going to have to tag contacts as “important”, “friends” etc. You’ll want to follow up with people in each category differently so you’ll need to get organized.
16. Soup-up your Rolodex
Once you’ve got over a hundred contacts, or so, in your “Rolodex” you’re probably going to need some software that’s more efficient than Outlook or Gmail for keeping up with your network. You’re going to need something more like a “CRM”. In the last couple of years, “social CRM’s” have come out that are well-suited to networking. Check out Contactually and Nimble as a couple of the most interesting tools of this ilk.
If you want to dig deeper, there are two definitive books on the subject of networking. One is Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and the other is Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. Or just come by this blog again, we will be covering the subject of networking quite frequently.