All projects need managing. Business networking is a project, and so it needs managing. You can use various tools to manage your networking.
You must manage your networking, or it will manage you.
Some people plan with shapes and connections on a big sheet of paper. Others prefer a spreadsheet. Use whatever you find comfortable.
Be able to plan and monitor your networking activities.
It is important to know exactly what you want, because you will be asked – very directly by powerful potential contacts – and you will need to give a clear answer.
An activity which has no clear planned outcomes is liable to be pulled in all sorts of unwanted directions.
As with any project, you will only move towards your aim when you keep focused on that aim.
If you don’t know what to plan, then probably some research is necessary:
In terms of evaluating and choosing a potential networking group – especially a big online community – investigate the tactics that successful members are using. Ask a leading member for pointers. This will help you assess the group’s relevance to your needs and strengths.
You will save yourself from attending time-wasting events, and registering with time-wasting websites, if you do some research before committing valuable time to deeper involvement.
A plan is vital because business networking can be a very time-consuming activity.
Have some targets and measurables, and monitor results.
A structured approach can be especially important for very sociable networkers.
Business networking can be a very enjoyable activity, and for some people can seem a lot more productive than it actually is, so stay mindful of business results and cost-effectiveness.
Here is a simple example for planning and monitoring networking, which extends the elevator speech template above.
Just use the headings as a guide if you prefer to work more intuitively, or if you favour a certain type of planning method.
networking planner example
|group 1||group 2||group 3|
|what is my aim?|
|ideal connections (people) – describing words|
|group name and type|
|group profile/sector/interests (relevance to me)|
|tactical group notes/tips – what works well?|
|my elevator speech (for this group)|
|what I can do for these people|
|what do I want from these people?|
|diary dates/scheduled tasks|
|compare with my other marketing activities|
Obviously alter the box sizes to allow for whatever content you want to insert.
The framework can be extended to manage specific follow-ups.
The example above doesn’t necessarily suggest you begin with three groups, or limit your business networking activities to three groups.
A sensible start might be to pick one business networking website, and one face-to-face business networking group or event, and see how you do before increasing the activity.
As you will see from the sustained focused effort point, business networking works best when it is attacked in a concentrated way. If you take on too many groups and websites at the same time you will be spread too thinly, and find it difficult to make an impact in any of them.