Everybody talks about the importance of networking; you often get the impression it is an immediate thing but often it takes time and focus. After 4 years I am beginning to see the benefits, this quarter I have used my network to: get advice for a planning appeal; find two potential distributors for project and a potential investor.
Getting benefit from networking takes effort, below are my tips to how to create effective networks
1) Create as wide a network as possible – use Linked In, Facebook and Twitter to create it. They all have different advantages
2) Make sure you understand each person (or as many as you can) you link with and make sure they understand you. If possible mentally allocate to each contact a “elevator pitch” summary. So when you need to contact someone you choose correctly. Don't assume you know someones CV just because you have worked with them.
3) Think of yourself as a brand – your brand needs building and maintaining – think of how you are perceived and what take away you want people to be left with.
4) When looking for support be specific. General calls out to everyone in your network do not usually create much response. But tailored requests to relevant contacts are very effective.
5) Keep your network current - use email, face to face meetings or even blogs. Have coffee regularly, a couple times a year, with key networkers in your network as it allows you both to update each other. This is the most effective way of getting or giving help.
6) The more you help others in your network the more your reputation will improve as a networker and ultimately the more you will get out of your network.
7) Remember the best networking is two way – both get benefit over time.
If you are an entrepreneur or working as an individual consultant networking is both your lifeblood and best way to keep sane.