Building a good network takes time and focus. Choosing the right places to network – and the right people to network with – determines the quality, reach, and impact of your network. In this third installment in our series, explore three tried and true ways to get great results. 

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

This article is part 3 in our Building Your Network series.

Have you ever: 

  • Stood in a room full of strangers with a glass of wine in your hand and thought, “what am I doing here?” 
  • Chatted up several people, only to feel like all you got was a fistful of business cards not worth following up on? 
  • Tested your sanity by attending every networking event you can find, all for naught?
  • Had lots of really good conversations that never seem to amount to anything?

In some ways, the typical notion of “networking” is a trap. It presents the seductive lure of a lot of activity – but it’s not often tied directly to results or outcomes. Focusing on activity rather than results drains your precious time and energy. The antidote is focusing on your outcome, and organizing your networking toward that. 

Outcomes define targets

Have you clearly defined your networking targets? In marketing, we call this an “avatar” or “ideal client/target profile.” If you could construct your perfect contact from scratch, who would they be?

You’ll likely have several kinds, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to land clients? Find a new job? Locate a specific resource? Develop a referral partner? If you don’t have an outcome in mind, you can’t make the most of your networking time. Just like advancing your career, good networking is intentional.

Go back to the first article in the series to review how to set good outcomes. 

Three key approaches

When I first started networking, I made the mistake of signing up for everything to “see what sticks.” The result? Lots of frustration and few good connections. The most effective strategy is to focus on building a good networking approach instead. Here’s how I went about it:

  • Find nodal points.“Nodal points” are connections who bring entire networks with them. These people network continuously, and seem to “know everyone.” Build a reciprocal relationship with them. Remember that everyone has something of value to offer, no matter how small. My goal was to build and maintain 5 “nodal points” in my network – these are referral partners that I send clients, resources, and introductions to regularly, and they do the same. The keys are twofold: deliver value to your nodal points, and be clear on the kinds of introductions you need. My 5 nodal points account for well over half of my warm referrals, so it’s time well spent. 
  • Ask for the next introduction.Whenever I have a new appointment with someone, I make sure I know what I’m asking for (go back to article 1 to review the notion of “the ask and the offer”). One thing I always ask for is the next introduction. Do it at the end of your conversation, every time. Ask, “who else do you know that I should meet?” I offer to be a sounding board or make connections for them, too. 90% of the time, they’ll make the next introduction – and it will be a warm one. 
  • Go deep.Rather than dropping in and out of organizations or events, I try to pick one or two to “go deep” with. Volunteer on a committee, attend regular meetings, make meaningful connections. You’ll get more value focusing your energy than you will spreading it around. Identify organizations you’re passionate about, or ones where your ideal clients (according to your ideal client profiles) are. If you don’t know where to go, ask someone who networks successfully for their approach. And if you don’t know anyone, find someone who seems to do it well on LinkedIn and ask for advice. 

Building a good networking engine takes time and focus. Don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed. Make one quality connection at a time. As someone who doesn’t do patience well, I had to manage a lot of frustration while building my engine. It felt like a lot of work and not many results. But now, I can hardly keep up with warm introductions and I’m seeing a great harvest from those efforts. Keep at it, and stay focused. 

Check out our final installment in the series, where we explore how to measure your networking success, and decide what’s working and what isn’t.