More bang for the buck
A friend of mine – and this is neither denigrating him or social media – was boasting to me recently that he had 1,500 friends on LinkedIn. I told him I thought that was great. But when I asked him, “Out of those 1,500 friends, how many do you actually know?” He got real quiet. OK, no big deal.
But it begs the question, “Which has more value to you or your business – the meaningful (and probably fewer) connections or the surface leads?” For my money, building long-term relationships with existing clients or other professionals is what will enrich your life or your business.
Casting the net
We can mine surface leads all day: Go to any type of job fair or professional development seminar and you can easily walk out the door with a dozen business cards. Are they worth anything? Maybe if you whittle those dozen down you can come up with three or four meaningful encounters but even those individuals demand some sincere and significant follow-up.
Relationships demand work
Author Derek Coburn waxes philosophic about this very thing in his recent book >Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections. In it, Coburn maps out some simple steps to take your networking encounters to the next level:
1. Shift your mindset – You can still achieve your goals through networking but it must focus on creating more meaningful and long-lasting relationships by providing more value to existing network and contacts.
2. Identify key contacts – Take the time to research your industry and target specific individuals with whom there’s a potential for long-term value exchange. Meet with them one on one or attend an event they will attend. In this manner, you can get time with them on their schedule.
3. Find clients for your clients – Being a useful resource to your connections can help you grow your business gradually over time, building trust and driving a noticeable increase in profit.
4. Create a power network – Once you’ve identified individuals to network with and introduced yourself, create a group of your most important contacts, or a power network.
5. Host your own events – Try creating your own series of events where you can bring together members of your power network for a lunch or another get together that will facilitate further connections, conversations leading to business opportunities, continued visibility for you and goodwill among attendees.
Any worthwhile relationship demands work. Whether it’s the person sharing your pillow at night or the executive in the boardroom, a meaningful rapport doesn’t just happen.