You’ve probably heard lots of talk in your firm about networking and “getting out there”. But what does that mean in reality? You’re not expected to win your own work (yet!) but you do need to be seen as someone who is building a network of people around them. But how to do this when time is short and you’re not sure what to do? Probably the biggest waste of time I see lawyers, accountants and consultants do with their business development, is network without a clear purpose or strategy. So many new qualifieds equate effective networking with ‘”working the room”. But this only one of the tools in your networking kitbag. Having a personal networking strategy that you can use to guide you with your networking activity is probably one of the biggest ways of saving business development time. Over this series of blog posts, I will take you step-by-step through how to create your winning networking strategy.
What is a networking strategy?
So, what do we actually mean by a networking strategy?
A networking strategy details how you will achieve your goals via your networking activities A clear and concise networking strategy will allow you to make the decisions as to ‘what’ networking activities you will do, i.e. your networking plan. If you implement your networking plan, you will, if it all goes to plan, achieve your networking goals.
It’s useful to think of what we actually mean by effective networking.
Effective business networking is the process of finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.
It is this definition that will provide the framework, for the rest of this blog post series helping you build your successful business networking strategy.
5 stages of creating a networking strategy
There are five stages to create an effective networking strategy.
- Goals: Create your networking goals – so have a think about what you want to achieve as a result of your networking activities
- Audit – assess the suitability of your current network, your networking activities and any keeping in touch strategies you already have – will these help you to achieve your networking goals or do they need a revamp?
- Find – Who do you need to meet, and where and how are you going to meet them. How will you find them on LinkedIn or Twitter? Where would you meet them in person?
- Build – What will you do to progress a new relationship from just a name, to a deep, strong and highly beneficial relationship? How will you choose who to progress your relationships with? What will be your criteria for ‘A, B or C-listers’ or which introducers will be in your ‘inner’, ‘middle’ or ‘outer circle’
- Maintain – What will you do to keep your relationships ticking over? After all, if your network never hears from you or sees you, the relationship will gradually wither and die. This is your ‘keeping-in-touch’ strategy.
If you complete each stage, your networking plan will almost write itself. Remember, the difference between your networking strategy and your networking plan is:
Your networking strategy tells you ‘how’ you will achieve your networking goals. Your networking plan is what you will do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis and the projects/campaigns you will run to achieve your networking goals.