Do you feel like your networking efforts are just meaningful conversations which go absolutely nowhere? Do you know how each networking event will help you achieve your personal and professional goals? Do you know how to use social media to win work and make valuable connections? The key to networking effectively is to have a networking strategy. Here is how to build one in just 5 steps (including our business networking plan template!).
A 5-step business networking plan
Step 1: Decide on your goals
You can’t use your time effectively unless you know what you want to get out of that time, so to build a solid business networking plan, you first need to identify your goals. Ask yourself:
- What business development related results do I want to achieve and by when?
- How will my network help me achieve these goals?
- How will I know when I am successful?
Answer these questions and write down a few key goals for your network and networking activities. Having these front of mind will make a big difference in how you prioritise and use your time.
Step 2: Audit your network and networking activities
When building your networking plan, first identify and evaluate the effectiveness of your current network and networking activities. Look at each relationship with your client and evaluate whether it’s at the level that you desire; you can then identify what you need to do to maintain it or to improve it. Ask yourself:
- What relationships do I need to strengthen or ditch?
- Which relationships do I need to maintain?
- What current networking activities do I need to change or stop?
- What current networking activities do I need to maintain?
- Where do I have gaps in my network?
Step 3: Find the right people for your network
Once you know your goals and where you are currently with your network and networking activities, now you can start putting your strategy together for finding the right people to fill the gaps. (Does a networking strategy really matter?) Ask yourself:
- What are the names/roles of the people I would like to meet?
- What am I going to do to meet these people?
Make a note of the daily, weekly, monthly and/or yearly actions that you need to do as well as the one-off actions and set yourself time goals to make sure that you are on track.
Step 4: Strengthen the important relationships
By this stage of building your business networking plan, you would have identified your most valuable client relationships. You will want to keep these clients happy, so think about how you can strengthen these relationships. Ask yourself:
- Could I improve my communication with these clients? Do I always communicate in a timely, efficient, and consistent manner?
- Could I make myself more available to these clients?
- Could I exceed their expectations by offering them something of value?
- Could I go above and beyond and help them with any challenges or issues that they are currently facing?
Try to be honest when evaluating whether you can improve existing relationships. You can even ask your clients for their feedback or if there is anything else you can help them with, just be prepared to address any concerns that they may have.
Step 5: Maintain the strong and important relationships
It’s not enough just to wow your clients initially and form strong relationships only to let your standards slip a few months down the line; you have to maintain these relationships to keep your business running strong. Always ask yourself the above questions every few months to make sure that you are giving your client everything that they need and want from you.
Time is money, so network effectively
Networking can lead to a lot of wasted hours, so invest some time into building a solid plan and use it to start networking effectively! In just 5 steps, you can start seeing results from your networking efforts. Don’t forget to save yourself even more time by downloading our business networking plan template!