By Jennifer Carter, President of EWF International

There’s a business truism that “what gets measured gets done.” But networking is often governed more by hopefulness rather than true measurement – which can make it wasteful. In this final installment in our series, we share some concrete approaches to measuring networking that will help you make the most of your time and investment.

Our 4-part series on Building Your Network focuses on these key areas:

  • Part 1: Focusing on the engine. The power of a deep network, setting your goals, clearly defining success, and mastering “the ask” and “the offer”.
  • Part 2: Honing your brand. Identifying and honing your introductions and basis of your influence.
  • Part 3: Choosing your targets. Where and with whom should you network, impactful ways to network, and how to become an effective connector.
  • Part 4: Planning, measurement, and making adjustments. How to know when you’re networking successfully, and when to pivot.

This article is part 4 in our Building Your Network series.

I recently spoke to a group of up-and-coming leaders at a Chamber event. During that conversation, I asked them: “How do you know what you’re doing – in pretty much any endeavor – is working?”

The majority of answers I get boil down to this: “Well, I hope that it is.”

Hope isn’t a strategy. In fact, when it comes to setting targets and measuring outcomes, relying on “hope” alone is a huge red flag. This can be particularly dangerous in terms of networking – you go to event after event, hoping to meet “the one”: that perfect prospect, partner, or resource. You hope to get noticed. You hope to make the sale.

And it doesn’t happen.

The antidote to this is twofold: clearly articulate your goals, and measure the outcomes. If you want more information about focusing on the engine, honing your brand, or choosing your targets, go back and read the first three installments in our series.

So how do you measure the outcomes of an activity like networking? One of the key things to understand is your “funnel” – how many connections or interactions does it take for you to accomplish your goal (make that sale, get that job, meet that key contact, etc.)? It’s not, as much as we’d like it to be, 1:1.

A look at the funnel          

 Simply put, a “funnel” is the process it takes to get a complete stranger (a “suspect”) to become a customer (or strong network connection). Not everyone you come into contact with is going to progress or move forward into your network. There will be some who never engage. Others who will engage and then fade away. And a percentage who will make it all the way through the funnel to become customers or strong network partners (they’ll “convert”).

Here’s why that matters: networking is often an activity of extremes. We’re either feeling very bullish (we went to that one event 6 months ago and made some great connections!) or completely demoralized (we’ve had lots of meetings that went nowhere). Reality is somewhere in the middle: there will be some amount of attrition as your connections move through your funnel – they’ll “fall out” or “ghost” you or it won’t be a good fit. What you really want to know is how many to expect, and when it’s a good time to change up your strategy.

Know your numbers

So, how many introductions does it take for you to make that sale or add a meaningful connection to your network (adding them on LinkedIn isn’t enough – it has to be meaningful)? Do you know? If you have no idea, don’t fret. Starting with ballpark numbers is still starting. Think about the past year, and how many introductions you had. Now think about how many of those because customers or meaningful network connections. Do some back-of-the-napkin math, and you’ve got a starting place. For example: did it take 10 introductions (business card exchanges and subsequent coffees, warm referrals, LinkedIn connections that became in-person connections, etc.) to get to 1 meaningful connection or customer? 15? Just start with a ballpark, and monitor your numbers! There are free CRMs out there if you’d like to do it with a system.

If this sounds like a lot of work, think about this: how much monetary value does an hour of your time have to you? How much do you make an hour? Now think about the time you’re spending networking, and do the math. It’s a big investment. This is called “opportunity cost.” Putting goals and tracking around it makes sure you’re managing that investment rather than just being hopeful. Do it for a quarter – you’ll be surprised how much more useful your time is when it’s intentional and measured.

Death by scattershot

Throughout this series, we’ve been talking about choosing your targets, honing your approach, measuring progress. The goal is to make your networking time intentional and as impactful as it can be. Want to know networking’s biggest enemy? Lack of focus. Going to everything without making meaningful connections. Lots of activity, no results. It’s the biggest risk because it can destroy your emotional reserves and discourage you.

Instead, choose one or two organizations and dive deep. Focus. Build relationships beyond simply exchanging business cards. Volunteer for a committee and get involved. Measure the sources of your best referrals or networking connections, and focus your efforts on what works. Casting a wide net is only the beginning of your experiment; once you have a good sense of what works best: FOCUS, and cut out things or connections that aren’t working.

This is where the notion of reciprocal relationships is particularly crucial. If you have a referral partner you send lots of introductions to but don’t get much from, reevaluate that relationship. Same goes the other direction – have someone who introduces you a lot, but you don’t reciprocate? Fix that inequity. The best networks are true communities – they benefit everyone, not just a few.

At EWF, we believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. What that means is that the power of the network is exponential – not only in business, but also personally. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t know where to start – pick an event or a connection and build from there. This series has introduced a blueprint for an approach. Get out there and make it your own.

Want to expand your network and supercharge your career? Join us! If you’re an executive or business owner, we have peer advisory forums designed to help you make more strategic decisions and take your company and career to new heights. If you’re earlier in your career and looking to advance, registration for our Emerging Leaders program is now open!