Who do you know?
We’ve all heard the saying: ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.
That’s because networks are powerful.
Your network is your squad. They’re your back-up crew. Your cheerleaders. Your network is unique to you and it’s your greatest asset.
Some of the most successful leaders I’ve met in more than 20 years in marketing, are those that are the best networked. That’s because they’re not solo operators. Their team is bigger than their workplace.
How strong is your network?
A great way to evaluate the strength of your network is not by how many names and numbers you have in your contact book but how many people you can call up when you need support.
- How many people would be genuinely interested to hear about a new development in your business?
- How many would be willing to offer advice if you encountered a challenge?
- How many can’t wait to buy your next product or service?
As is said in the film It’s a Wonderful Life – no one is a failure who has friends. Although your business contacts may not be the ones you’d invite into your home, it’s good to have business friends who you know you can turn to in your professional world. A great network brings you support, encouragement and ambassadors that champion you.
Your network is also a brilliant source of market intelligence too. As you converse and collaborate, you hear the latest insights in your industry and get new ideas. You have people you can explore ideas with and people who will give you honest feedback.
Your network is also powerful for generating leads. Not only will you hear where the opportunities are in the market, you’ll open doors to new customers. People will spread the word. They’ll recommend you. They’ll keep you in mind for when they need what you offer. They’ll buy from you.
Nurture your network and it’ll help you grow.
Treat your network like a community rather than a series of transactions. Bring people together. Talk, yes, but listen too. Create opportunities to support each other and collaborate. The best relationships are two-way.
Together, you are stronger.
How to find your network
Opportunities to network are all around. There are industry networks, professional networks, business support networks, special interest networks and, in larger companies, internal networks too.
Many run events like exhibitions, conferences, virtual meet-ups and so on, that you can attend.
You can also get more involved. Maybe there are initiatives to support. Maybe a network needs trustees or directors. Maybe they need special advisors, experts to consult. These opportunities are a great way to get known and demonstrate what you can do.
As Denzel Washington says in the film Training Day: “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove”. Getting involved in the right networks is a great way to show what you’re capable of and ensure people remember.
Where can you find your network?
Five ways to grow your network
- Do your homework.
Research the networks that could be relevant to you. This could be based on the sector in which you work, your profession within it, your specialisms and interests. Which could be useful now? Which could be beneficial in the future?
Think about people you’d like in your network. Find out where they hang out professionally and explore ways you could reach out.
Take time to understand each network and each person. Understand their objectives, how they work and their preferences.
It’s important to consider not just what you could get out of a network or relationships with individuals, but what you can give too.
It takes time to build relationships so networking with your future in mind could help you open doors ready for when you need them, in a way that feels genuine.
- Prepare well
Great preparation will help you make a memorable impression.
Understand the sorts of companies and professionals that are part of the networks that interest you, before attending. Consider what their focuses, challenges and ambitions are as well as what they may like to talk about. Some events publish a list of delegates in advance. Use this in your research.
Know what to expect on the day. Find out if there is an agenda, theme or any expectations.
Also know your goals. This will depend on your current business focuses and who is part of the network. Will you be meeting industry peers, potential customers, potential suppliers and so on?
Are you looking to get new contacts, build partnerships, open up new opportunities, find customers or get people interested in doing business with you in the future?
Once you’re clear on this, decide what you need to bring with you.
- Have something to say.
Networking is an art. It helps to come armed with conversation points to avoid the risk you’ll get talking about the traffic or weather over coffee and then conversation dries up.
Consider some relevant discussion points to help you get conversations flowing. Think about questions you could ask too.
Good questions show you are genuinely interested in the people you’re talking with. It can also help you draw out useful insights. Likewise, think about the questions that could come your way. How you will answer them?
Prepare an elevator pitch and practice delivering it in a conversational way. Your pitch should get across what you offer, what’s unique and why customers should choose you. It’ll help you make a strong impression when you’re put on the spot.
- Jump in
When you meet up with people, whether virtually or in person, the most important thing is to jump in.
Remember that you’ve come prepared. Knowing this, you can step into any networking event feeling confident whether you know anyone there or not.
Even if you feel nervous, the quicker you get into conversation, the quicker you’ll feel more comfortable. All you need to do is find common ground and get talking.
But, don’t get stuck in one place and don’t only stick with the people you know. Work the room. And, be sure not to do all the talking. Great networkers are great listeners.
- Fire up your network
Wherever you make your contacts, don’t just let them be a number in your phone or email address on your system.
Follow-up. Stay in touch.
It’s easier to do this than it’s ever been. Know how your contacts engage outside of events. Do they like to meet up separately, stay in touch on LinkedIn or other social media channels? Are they a regular at networking events?
Leave the door open when you meet and find ways to keep the conversation going.
Fire them up. Keep your network alive, inspire them to take an interest. Show how great you are at what you do so they’ll want to hear from you and keep you in mind.
And, do the same for them.
When you build a meaningful network of suppliers, colleagues and customers, when you fire up your circle, you transform a group of people into your greatest personal asset and your greatest business opportunity.
- Networks are powerful. Who you know is as important as what you do. A great network is your biggest asset.
- Networking is two-way. Prepare well so you know your audience before meeting. Have things to talk about and remember that its equally important to listen. You want to be seen as genuine and hear about the insights and opportunities they share.
- When you meet someone once, it’s like a transaction. When you build upon this, keep the conversations going and come together over mutual interests, meaningful relationships develop. Contacts become customers, partners and ambassadors on your growth journey.