To have a good network is about more than having 500+ connections on LinkedIn or having an address book filled with phone numbers. The quality of the network is just as important as the quantity.
A network should preferably be wide but also deep in certain places. We need to look at more than just who we know, but also how well we know them. We can obtain a dozen phone numbers from interesting people but if they don’t answer when we call it will get us nowhere.
There are plenty of valuable inputs and tools for networking and creating connections. For instance, watch our videos about the DNA of networking or read more about efficient and valuable networking in our article about ‘the mere exposure effect’.
No matter how you choose to network, it’s about building close relationships with those who are most valuable to you. You have to turn contacts into connections. But when it comes to joining a network there are now so many to choose from that it may seem difficult to decide what suits you the most.
How do you choose which kind of group to join? And how do you manage all the new connections?
Here, Marissa Levin from the business magazine Inc. Arabia walks us through five approaches to the right choice of community:
Every motive must be based on your personal or professional conditions for growing. That’s why choosing a network must be aligned with your strategic goals.
There’s a big difference between which communities to choose whether you, for instance, want to focus on generating leads, business development, expanding your social network, sparring, learning or getting in contact with specific people.
By having a budget for networking activities you can estimate your ROI (Return On Investment) from the time and resources you spend on networking more easily. If a membership is expensive, will it pay off with enough leads, if that’s your goal? Will you learn the right things? Get the right contacts and the necessary sparring?
All selections include deselections. This also applies when you prioritize your time. Is the network going to steal attention that you ought to spend on other assignments? What will you miss out on if you have to spend a lot of time in a specific network in order to gain something from it? Is it worth it?
It’s important that you evaluate in advance how much time your calendar allows you to invest in networking activities. Good intentions fall short if you don’t have the time. Are you getting something in return for the time you spend? And even more importantly: Do you have enough time and energy to contribute and create value for others in the network?
Visualize where your business will be in a year from now. Who can help you get there? Who can connect you to those people and what can you offer in return?
Find out who’s already in the network. Their companies, industries, customer groups, services etc.
Your choice of network must be based on logical considerations. Networking is, to a large extend, about doing something for other people. To provide value. Especially if you want something in return. How can you do that?
Again, your choice must be based on how you actually want to use the network.
This doesn’t just include having a book with connections and their contact information, but also that you attach your next action to every connection. For instance, that you have to write X and praise her for her latest contribution on a relevant media, or that you need to call Y to get qualified feedback on a good idea.
After each completed action you write down the next one – and mark the date. This is a nice habit that allows you to nurse your network along the way and meanwhile gain value from its resources.
The direct contact information of your connections is more valuable to you than through their business. Thus, a personal phone number or e-mail address is preferable to the company phone number and e-mail address. Personal information is more efficient and less likely to change over time.
You should ensure to always include context for your connections so that they’re not just a name and a phone number. Which story is attached to them? How did you get in touch?
This makes the connection easier to remember and it creates a more valuable relationship for both parties. You may want to attach a brief description of the context of the relationship as a note to the contact in your CRM system.
Furthermore, you can update this story every time you meet your connection. This way, the relationship is kept alive and relevant since every new meeting reveals new needs, interests and desires.