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. It isn’t helped by many firms asking their people to sub in for another person at the drop of a hat. 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.
In friday’s blog we looked at setting your networking goals, and thursday’s blog post we looked at the 5 stages in creating an effective networking strategy. In yesterday’s blog post, we looked at how to audit your current network and networking activities for effectiveness. In today’s blog post, we will focus on how to decide where to ‘find’ the right people to have in your network.
I often tell a story when delivering a keynote or masterclass on effective business networking about George Clooney. The story goes as follows:
People are always asking me who I want to me – I guess this is an occupational hazard of writing a book on networking! I always answer, George Clooney. People always wonder why I answer George Clooney? The fact is, my ultimate goal is to become a kept woman. George Clooney, represents someone who could short cut my way to achieving this goal.
Now, everyone has people like ‘George’ in their network, people who can help you shortcut your way to achieving your goals. Typically these are people who are exceptionally well connected to your target market. Sometimes, it may not be obvious. For example, one of my ‘George’s is a good friend called Mike Fieldhouse, who owns and runs a digital marketing agency, reality house. Now, when I tell you that his agency specialises in working with lawyers and accountants, does it become slightly clearer (given my professed specialism in working with lawyers and accountants) why Mike is actually a ‘George’ for me? Referrals from Mike make up ~15% of my company’s turnover in 2012.
Now, go back to your network map that you drew up in the audit stage of this process. Who are the people who can help you achieve your networking goals who are not yet on your map? At this stage, you may not know their name but know their company name and likely role. Or you may just know that you are looking out for someone who is well connected to your target market, and likely to be involved in these types of activities.
Your task at this stage in the process of defining your networking strategy is to brainstorm and identify the following:
- activities which will bring you into contact with your ‘George’s and missing connections on your networking map
- where your George may hang out – both online and offline
Now, rank all the activities by which ones are most likely to help you bump into the people you need to add into your network. Pick the top 3-5 activities to focus on, and add these into your daily, weekly and monthly networking activity plan.
Now that we have identified how to ‘find’ the people you need in your network, the next stage of the process is to decide how you will pro-actively build the right relationships.