There are a lot of tips on how to go about building a business network but what do you do to keep your relationships from going stale? Think about it, how many business-related networking events have you attended in your life? And of the people you initially connected with, how many people did you communicate with in the last year? It’s unfortunate but more often than not, we let our network relationships go stale because we don’t see the opportunities for engagement and collaboration.
It’s great to constantly make new relationships but they won’t mean much if you don’t find ways to nurture them. Here are our business networking tips that will help you effectively use the network you’ve already worked so hard to build.
Organize your network
Can you name everyone in your network? We can’t either. Keep a record of the who, what, where, and when’s of each person in your network. If you don’t have the information to use, you won’t be able to use it. This not only keeps you organized but referring to it the next time you make an update keeps the information fresher in your mind. We believe in the saying “out of sight, out of mind”. So if you don’t put it where you can actually see it, you’ll most likely forget it.
A simple spreadsheet works just fine. If you want help organizing, consider using Hubspot or Airtable to help you keep track of your business contacts. They both have free versions and we’re currently loving the colorful easy-to-use Airtable templates.
Remember to reconnect
Relying on our memory for something like this is always risky. How many times have you told yourself to remember to call a friend and realize at the end of the day that you completely forgot? Instead of putting this kind of pressure on our overworked brain, automate your reminder to reconnect with your network relationships.
Set it and forget it — use that memory space for something more creative. Calendar reminders, alerts, and notifications on our phones are easy to set up. Set up a weekly recurring event called “Reach out to one network relationship” and the next time you see that alert, use your already organized spreadsheet to figure out who you’ll connect with next.
Build your network’s value
Building the value of your network is important because it’s only as strong as the weakest link in it. Of course, if you’re already making efforts to build a network, you’re probably making sure you’re working on your own connections so this tip isn’t about you at all. This is about the others in your network. How can you help them build value within your network?
Be a matchmaker. Exercise your right to connect people inside your network and give them a chance to collaborate and strengthen that network link. The next time you’re reconnecting with someone who’s looking for help, offer to connect them with another person in your network. Even if that connection doesn’t work out, you will have strengthened the link within your network, making your network more valuable to you and others in it.
In-person meetings allow for organic engagement and creativity in our interactions. And like an improvisational group at play, the spontaneous energies of individuals can spark new connections and inspiration, creating new possibilities for everyone. This is the kind of energy that makes reconnecting in person so much more powerful than over the phone or text message.
Keep the energy of your network alive and make sure to reconnect face-to-face once in a while. This will also give the people in your network an opportunity to feel your energy and remember it the next time they think of you. And this doesn’t have to be with just one person. Make it a group meetup and invite a few people in your industry to get together for happy hour. The more, the merrier.
“It’s all about personal contact…for your own well-being and the health of your business, you need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships. If you discuss a work matter with an employee or a potential client over coffee rather than simply sending over an email, you’re more likely to build rapport.” – Richard Branson, Virgin Group
Show your support
At the end of the day, effective networking goes both ways. As much as you need the support and resources from people in your business network to work for you, they need yours too. If you know they have an important meeting coming up or recently achieved a milestone, reach out to them and ask how things are going. Don’t be surprised when the next time you need a little support for a project, that same person you took a little extra time checking in on will be ready to help you out.
“Your network is the people who want to help you, and you want to help them, and that’s really powerful” – Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn
Do you have networking tips like these? Share yours in the comment box below.